Chirps and Cheeps

A Photo Journal of My Birding Experiences & Observations

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  Snowy Owl in Batavia

Published: December 03, 2013
Tags: General Observations, Snowy Owl. lemming, arctic

I took a long lunch this afternoon and drove to the Batavia Airport to see the Snowy Owl that was found there today. I found the young owl sitting out on the airfield in the snow.

The only other time I saw a Snowy Owl was at the Niagara Falls Airport on the BOS Owl Field Trip led by Chuck Rosenberg this past March. That was a much more distant view. Today's view was quite wonderful! I never even pulled out my scope as binoculars were more than enough.

There have been many Snowy Owl sightings in the last week. Snowys are being found up on in farm fields, on beaches, and and at airports all up and down the northeast - even into the midwest. It's being called an "invasion" and even veteran birders are saying they can't remember a year where there's been such a confluence of the Arctic birds like this year.  Jeff Gordon of the American Birding Association said this year could perhaps become the biggest invasion year ever for Snowy Owls.

Snowy Owls will often come south from the Arctic when their normal food supply, lemmings, is in scarce supply - or when the breeding season was so successful there are so many Snowys that they're forced to go south in search of food. Whatever the reason, the Snowys we're seeing are hungry and looking for food.  If you happen to see one, give it some space as it's probably experiencing some form of hunger or stress.

The long days of the Arctic have adapted the Snowy to becoming a daytime hunter, unlike most owls. And another difference from the other owls is that they have feathers on their feet. This gives them some extra insulation from the Arctic cold.

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Immature Snowy Owl

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Snowy Owl

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Snowy Owl

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Snowy Owl

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Snowy Owl

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Snowy Owl

Reply from: Tim on 12/5/2013 9:32 PM
 Awesome Sue ,wonder whats causing this invasion?
Reply from: Sue on 12/6/2013 5:32 PM
 Hi Tim, as best as anyone can figure, these snowy invasions are most certainly prompted by a food shortage. It's either the fact that their food source, primarily lemmings, are in short supply - or they had a banner breeding year and the competition for food is fierce. Right now, people are speculating that it was a great breeding year in that most of the sightings seem to be immature birds. That's just the current theory now. Interestingly, unlike a couple of years ago, the invasion seems concentrated more around the Great Lakes and northeast - where, in 2011, it was much more widespread throughout the country.
Reply from: Charlie@Seattle Trekker on 12/6/2013 9:50 PM
 I find owls to be really special creatures and your photos really do them justice, great job.
Reply from: Sue on 12/7/2013 10:10 AM
 Thank you, Charlie; they ARE special!
Reply from: Jay Burney on 12/8/2013 5:51 PM
 Sue, awesome blog, awesome photos! You have a new fan!
Reply from: Sue on 12/8/2013 8:10 PM
 Thanks so much, Jay!
Reply from: Holly on 12/26/2013 5:11 PM
 My son just loves your snowy owl pictures! We live in Batavia and hope to see one ourselves!
Reply from: Sue on 12/30/2013 8:21 AM
 Hi Holly, Tell your son thank you for me! Have you seen a Snowy Owl yet? I hear they're still being found at the Batavia Airport. Good luck and I hope both you and your son get to see one! ~ Sue
Reply from: Marge Borchert on 1/13/2014 2:57 PM
 My husband and I are Nature Photographers. Can you tell me what time of day is the best time for a chance at sighting the Snowy Owl? We live in the Alden area and are eager to plan a trip out to the Airport with cameras in tow. Thank you.
Reply from: Sue on 1/13/2014 5:15 PM
 Hi Marge, your best bet is to go during the day since you want photos. Snowys are one of the few owls who have learned to hunt and be active during the daytime due to the long arctic days. Good luck; I hope you find one soon!

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