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Monday, January 9, 2012

Snowy Owls in PA?

In case you are not in tune with the birding hotlines, it seems as though we have had an invasion of Snowy Owls in PA. There have been five reported sightings of Snowy Owls in the area.  These magnificent white birds are a treat to see, and while I have thus far been skunked, I am certainly on the lookout. 

I have stopped and viewed numerous white plastic bags in trees on my recent weekend road trip to the western part of the state.  Sadly, no owls, only someone's litter masquerading as an owl.  This does not stop me from getting out of my car on the edge of the turnpike and rooting around for my binoculars.  I would not recommend trying this at home, or with a passenger (they tend to complain)!  The cars zipping by at 85mph are fairly unsure of the crazy person with the binoculars on the side of the road but a snowy owl sighting would be worth it to me.  
Snowy owls typically live in the extreme northern regions of the arctic tundra.  They are diurnal owls (they are active during the day as well as at night) so you can spot them throughout the day.  They are the heaviest of our North American owls, and while most tend to stay in the arctic in their breeding grounds some will migrate south during the winter months.  These fierce predators will even successfully protect their nests from wolves.  An adult owl can eat three to five lemmings each day.   They will spend most of their time silently perched and looking for prey, which combined with their white feathers makes them fairly easy to spot.  

Keep your eyes peeled for a flash of white and then check and double check to see if it is a bird or just another piece of litter!   If it is a bird, I hope you have TLC's office on speed dial because I would like to know immediately.  Happy birding, and do not laugh the next time you see some strange person pulled off of a major road with binoculars, chances are high an exciting (or imaginary) bird is within viewing distance. 

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