A few years ago, Indiana birders enjoyed a decent flight of Snowy Owls. The winter of 2011/2012 saw 46 individuals reported. It beat the previous record Snowy Owl flight when 40 were counted during the winter of 1996/1997. It was a memorable flight that made news across the nation. Snowy Owl’s invaded much of the county, but the Great Lakes were especially noteworthy. Owls were seen as far south as Texas, and Hawaii recorded it’s first state record of this amazing white ghost.
Birders often wait years or even a decade to see another flight like this. Now, only two winters later, it appears the Indiana Dunes and much of the US is undergoing another invasion. It began light, but by November’s end, sightings were literally snowballing in. Already, this invasion is getting more press than the 2007/2008 incursion. Likely due to the fact that the concentrations on the east coast are higher this time around. More people seeing them= more press.
So what have been the early highlights? Early returns? Well, December has just began and we have the following interesting reports:
- “Newfoundland has been experiencing a huge invasion of Snowy Owls over the last 2 weeks. A count of 42 along a 25km stretch of road yesterday is an indication that hundreds and maybe even thousands of these birds are all along the Southern coast of the island. Hatch year birds make up the vast majority of these birds, but a few adults have been seen.” Alvan Buckley in Newfoundland.
- A Snowy Owl is currently being seen in Bermuda. Last seen Friday, November 29.
- A Snowy Owl in North Carolina is the first in many years. If birders in Indiana are giddy about a Snowy Owl, imagine the near mass hysteria among southern birders when one shows up that far south.
- On Sunday, December 1, A Snowy Owl was seen at the Port of Indiana. Shortly after, 3 were seen together at Michigan City Harbor. A single bird was simultaneously being seen at nearby New Buffalo, MI harbor, while two more were inland in Berrien County. Later that afternoon, an astounding 5 Snowy Owls were being seen at the IN/IL stateline by Illinois birders. A single birder could have easily seen a dozen Snowy Owls along Lake Michigan’s southern rim in one afternoon!
These charismatic birds of the cold arctic excite bird enthusiasts and can contribute to bringing a new generation of bird watchers to the scene. For many, it’s Hedwig in the flesh (and feathers). These birds often allow for close up approaches, but it’s important to give them space, not to stress an already exhausted and likely starving bird. Watch any Snowy Owls from a distance. One opportunity to see Snowy Owls comes Monday, December 2. The Dunes State Park Interpretive Services will meet anyone interested in seeking out a Snowy Owl at the Indiana Dunes Tourism Visitor Center at 1215 N St Rd 49, Porter, IN, 46304 at 12pm central time. The car pool tour will drive around to known sites where the park’s optics will help give close up looks. If present, another tour will be offered this upcoming weekend too.
Snowy Owls in Indiana for 2013/2014… 13 and counting…