Peak Owl?

Snowy White Owl, Comin' in Hot!
Snowy White Owl, Comin’ in Hot!

Longtime Readers know I’m fond of publishing my inane emails to Kathy Clark, AKA “The Great Mother of All Cool Things In NJ That You Can’t Shoot With A Gun.” Back in Early November, I sent her this little gem:

What are my chances of finding a Snowy Owl on the beach this winter?

To which she responded:

You??  You have the magic touch.  You’ll see one any day now!!  No, three or four!

I don’t want to call her out, but she was wrong. Dead wrong. I’ve seen six, and it’s not even winter yet. In fact, you can’t swing a dead cat in New Jersey without hitting a Snowy White Owl right now. As fun as it is to believe it’s my magic touch bringing them, the truth is it’s probably something closer to starvation.

Snowy White Owls are masters of the Arctic where they like to chill (pun intended) and nom nom on Lemmings.  They have ultra thick NorthFace(TM) coats (see the last 3 seconds of the video below to see the feather shake). Even their feet are furry. And since it is perpetual daytime in the Great White North, the Snowies are diurnal and hunt during the day.

Practice makes perfect. Can you spot the Snowy on LBI today?
Practice makes perfect. Can you spot the Snowy on LBI today?

When the Lemming bowl gets emptied or spilled, the Owls begin migrating south in search of food. And they loves them some New Jersey. Our big, open protected beach areas are perfect Snowy habitat. Still, it’s usually a big deal when just one visits, let alone the hordes we’re seeing in 2013. This year is so off-the-charts, you’ll probably get bored of them.

There are lots of opinions out there about how long they’ll stay. A few days? All season? It depends on how much food they can find. If our beaches are sufficiently loaded with rodent, then we might be in for a treat this winter. If not, then they’ll keep moving. They’ve been working their way South down the coast after first appearing at Sandy Hook a few weeks ago.

Go away. Iz hiding.
Go away. Iz hiding.

Tour buses full of birders and photographers will probably soon descend on the Garden State to get a glimpse of these amazing animals. Get out while the going’s good if you too want to get your Snowy on. These enormous, bright white birds are really, really hard to miss. Add to that that they hate forests and love big open spaces, including airports.

And now that I’ve had my chance to hog them and go super-ninja-paparazzi on them, I can condescendingly lecture and remind you that these sweeties are stressed and hungry: keep a good distance, bring some binoculars, or a big glass lens.

Is this Peak Owl? Time will tell. But I’m… dreaming… of a Snowy White Owl Christmas.

Iz hungry
Iz hungry