Wed, 27 Nov 2013 06:41 UTC
Snowy Owls (Bubo scandiacus) are one of the most magnificent and well-recognized species on the entire planet. This would be part of the reason why we chose them to be our new logo, and the Snowy pictured within it is adapted from Roger Tory Peterson's "Arctic Glow". As a raptor lover in general they are one of my favorites, and living on the Connecticut coast for nearly my entire life I had the chance to enjoy them during fall and winter seasons as Roger did throughout his as he often lived and worked in the same areas.
After seeing a sudden burst of eBird entries and list serv reports of Snowy Owls across southern Canada and the upper United States in the last week I could not resist commenting on them on Facebook and Twitter yesterday. When I did I got a tremendous reaction from excited people contacting me telling me they would be looking for them or sharing photos of birds they had seen in the last few days. Here's a screen capture of the eBird map of Snowy Owls for November 2013 as of today.
Snowy Owls always pop up in these areas during late November and often continue in small numbers into the winter, but there seem to be a lot appearing rather suddenly. Will we have a brief movement or will a major irruption occur this winter? More have been reported than shown on the map on the various communications mediums birders employ - from texts to emails to forums - and I hope everyone who is lucky enough to spot one ends up entering the sighting into the permanent, protected and easily explored eBird databases. The best places to find Snowy Owls are beaches, marshes, airports and fields. They prefer environments that resemble the arctic tundra where they spend most of their lives. A spot like Boston's Logan Airport is famous for Snowy Owls as it offers several desirable traits with it being a remote, open coastal area.
Please remember that if you find a Snowy Owl it has flown all the way here very likely because it is frantically searching for food and is starving and exhausted. Give it as much room as you can while viewing it and allow it to hunt without being disturbed. While we have no control over whether or not there will be an irruption and should not feel guilty over enjoying seeing them if there is a sizable flight south we can control how much we do (or hopefully do not) pressure them while they are among us. Recording the sighting in eBird also helps as you'll be making a contribution to conservation as a citizen scientist.
While you're in the field keep an eye out for Rough-legged Hawks, Northern Shrikes, Snow Buntings and other winter birds that are now on the move and being widely reported across the U.S.