Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Snowy Owl Is No-Showy Owl

Snowy owls have drifted far south of their Arctic realm this winter. It's been a virtual snowstorm of snowies, with owls showing up as far south as Oklahoma.

One owl even ended up in Hawaii, at an airport of all places, though as far as we know it arrived under its own wing power and not via Alaska Airlines. (Unfortunately, this historic appearance of an Arctic owl in tropical Hawaii ended badly for the bird: it was shot by federal employees who feared it would interfere with air traffic.)

The snowy owl wandering around Seattle has enjoyed a much better reception. It spends a lot of time in beautiful Discovery Park, hunting for voles in the meadow.

And it's even lounged around on buildings I pass by all the time, except, of course, when I've been anywhere near them--namely, the roof of a church across the street from the local library, the roof of the Australasia exhibit at the zoo, and the roof of a house just a stone's throw away from my own.

Unfortunately, circumstances right now are such that I can't make a road trip to the Pacific shores of our fair state, or even up to farmlands north of here where snowies have been sighted, so I keep hoping that the Ballard-area bird and I will bump into each other.

I had high hopes when I walked along a hillside street recently and saw a flock of crows and gulls apparently mobbing something that was moving slowly from building to building, but it turned out to be just an elderly man shuffling down the sidewalk, pausing now and then to toss handfuls of bread crumbs into the street.

Short of hanging voles from the feeders outside, I'm guessing I will miss out on the Great Snowy Owl Irruption of 2012--though on the same day the owl was spotted cuddling up to a heat vent on a nearby roof, I heard a big thump on my roof and a frantic scurry-scurry sound. Squirrels frequently cavort on our housetop, and I wondered if perhaps the owl had attempted to snatch one of them.

Later, I found these feathers on a shrub under the eaves--though I have absolutely no proof they're from a snowy owl; for all I know they could be from some neighborhood chicken. I just really, really, really want them to be snowy owl feathers.

But what birder hasn't done the same thing with a real live bird glimpsed through binoculars? It's a cinch to see a rare, out-of-range Greater Lesser Spotted Pitwot flitting through the local woodland when you know perfectly well that it is far more likely to be the common Lesser Great Speckled Wotpit indigenous to your area.


  1. I envy you the Lesser Great Speckled Wotpit. None of them round here.

  2. The flock following the old man down the street cracks me up. I'd trade a snowy owl sighting for that one, hands down.

  3. Jane--I'd send you the Wotpit, but it would break some sort of law, I'm sure.

    Rachael, the flock and the old man was pretty my dog was extremely interested in the idea of crossing the street to get at that bread!