A potential highlight each November in the dunes is the return of the Snowy Owl. The large white owl of the north doesn’t return to the dunes each fall, but when they do, their large charismatic nature and overall appeal tend to draw many birders in to see them. Thus when late November comes, they are highly sought after in some of the traditional sites.
Many residents in the area have never seen one and often don’t realize that they can be found here. In fact, the Indiana Dunes area is the best location in the state to see a Snowy Owl. So unique to this area, compared to other birding sites, it was chosen as the animal to represent the Indiana Dunes State Park in the 1985 Zimmerman print made for each state park.
The first Snowy Owl of the 2013 fall season was found today, November 24, at a famous site for them. The Port of Indiana’s outer breakwalls are a safe haven for migrating owls moving down the lakeshore. An owl was spotted this morning on the far western wall. This location is often an eye strainer, requiring a spotting scope to see adequately. Within an hour later, other birders noticed an agitated Peregrine Falcon behind them dive bombing another Snowy Owl at close range, right behind the tug boats at the Port. This second bird would later be mobbed by crows and fly across to the outer breakwall, but in more viewable location. These owls may stick around for a few days for birders with good binoculars and spotting scopes to see.