Sunday, December 8, 2013

Snowy Owls in Maryland!

photo by Diane McAllister

 It's called an irruption.  This time, it's an irruption of Snowy Owls.  I'm quoting from reporter Tim Prudente in the Capital Gazette:

"A scarcity of tundra food, mainly lemmings, is driving these owls south from the Arctic where they breed, said Jessie Barry, a researcher at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a world leader in the study of birds.
“There’s typically a snowy owl invasion every three to five years,” she said. “This year we’re seeing a particularly intense invasion. There are thousands of birds on the move.”
One unconfirmed sighting, years ago, was of a snowy owl devouring a gull atop a Glen Burnie light post.
These Arctic owls have appeared in ancient cave paintings and Harry Potter films. Recently, a snowy owl was seen sitting atop a farmer’s tractor in Prince Frederick in Calvert County.
A snowy owl was also reported at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore. Others were reported just north of Tilghman Island, at Dulles International Airport, and at Hart-Miller Island State Park in Baltimore County.
And Anne Arundel?
“We’ll see one. I would bet money on it,” said Tyler Bell, a researcher at Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater. “The most likely place is Sandy Point. They seem to like beaches.”
In fact, snowy owls prefer open landscapes resembling the tundra, such as beaches and farms. The owls hunt mice, rats and ducks.
On the tundra, they’ve been reported to attack wolves.
So birders are warned to keep their distance while enjoying the sight. Snowy owls are a protected species.
“There’s something magical about seeing a snowy owl,” Barry said. “Just the fact that it’s all white. It feels out of place down here.”
Haas founded Facebook pages, MD Birding and Anne Arundel Birding, to collect sightings from local birders. He took a detour home from work on Wednesday.
He arrived near dusk at North Point State Park in Baltimore County. There, perched on a tree, above a marsh, sat a snowy owl. A young male, it was spotted, preening itself and opening its mouth — offering the appearance of smile.
Perhaps it had just dined on a duck.
“This is just the beginning of the invasion,” Haas said."

Since then, one has arrived in Frederick County, just about ten miles south of my home.  Here's a photo from  Nikki DeBraccio  on the Facebook page MD Birding:

I'm very excited about this, and hope to see this owl myself.  I've never seen one in the wild.
Right now, it is snowing heavily, and I will probably have to wait until tomorrow to venture out in search of this bird.

1 comment:

Deana Marie said...

Wow. I would love to see one of these.