Browsing Bliss Awaits You

It appears you're using Internet Explorer or an early version of Edge, which is a bit like watching a black-and-white TV with "rabbit ears." You're missing symmetry, joy and actual knowledge — not only here on my website but across the internet. I suggest you upgrade to Chrome or Firefox. You’ll discover a lot more nature, maybe even actual rabbit ears.

— Bryan

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YEP, 2014 WASN’T A BAD YEAR. Not nearly as bad as 1914, when Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo — and then millions died in war — and the last Passenger Pigeon died in captivity in the Cincinnati Zoo.

But you’re not the kind of blog reader who retreats. So you won’t find here a retrospective of my blog posts or nature photos from 2014. You look forward. So resolve to see a Snowy Owl in 2015.

Although Snowys aren’t showing up in the record numbers we saw across the eastern U.S. last winter (you don’t look backward anyway, remember?) you’ve still got plenty of opportunities to “get with the Arctic.”

snowy-owl-distribution-map-1280I’m tracking Snowy Owl reports in my home state of Vermont and elsewhere across the continent. Basically, where you see purple in this map to the right, you can find white in the wild. Below, you’ll find a link to an interactive national map of Snowy Owl reports.

As usual, in Vermont, the Champlain Valley is the Snowy hot spot. Snowys like the wide open country — it sort of reminds them of their home in the Arctic. Reliable spots in the past few days include the Goose Viewing Area on Route 17 near Dead Creek in Addison and one mile south of there at the end of Gage Road. Snowys closer to Burlington included one near the intersection of Swift Street and Spear Street in South Burlington on December 21. The Sandbar Causeway was good for owls earlier in December, with fewer reports from there recently. An owl report came from the Colchester Causeway (cold and windy out there) on December 26.

Besides the flatlands, your best bet is to get to a shoreline. Snowy Owls will actually hunt ducks or even take fish from the water’s surface. When you view the interactive map, you’ll see lots of owl reports from near water, particularly along the Great Lakes and New England coast.

So click on the image below (or here) to get the actual interactive map showing Snowy Owl reports since December 1 (courtesy of our friends at eBird.org). Once you get there, the most important thing to do is to click the box on the right that says “Show Points Sooner.” Then zoom in to see individual Snowy Owl reports. Yeah, that’s them — those red flags across the northern states and parts of Canada. Lots of opportunity out there. As always, when you see a Snowy Owl, keep a respectful distance (particularly you eager photographers without big lenses).

One final warning: not every one of those points indicates an owl’s exact location. eBirders sometimes only enter a city or town for their sighting (which probably gets shown as a centerpoint on the map) rather than an actual spot-on location. You can usually tell from the location details when you click on any particular data point.

Finally, okay, one look back: to get you in the Snowy Owl mood, here’s my essay in Aeon Magazine about the owl invasion of last winter.

[For more good stuff like this, sign up for my email newsletter Natural Selections, which features fresh-picked news from the frontiers of wildlife science and from my own adventures in wild places.]

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6 comments
  1. Jane Johns says:

    I saw one today, January 12. I was driving north on VT Rte 14 in East Montpelier when it flew across the road ahead of me. It banked as it flew over the road and I could see that it was all white. It landed in a tree on the left side of the road but there was no safe place to stop so I couldn’t stop to get a picture with my phone camera. I had watched one all last winter on Bridgeman Hill in Hardwick so I immediately recognized it.

  2. Hi from Montreal,

    Interesting article. Reminds me – The Snowy Owl made the news about 2 -4 weeks ago talking about the problems associated with these creatures around local airports. Airports are looking at ways to keep them away. They are heavy and don’t react to move out of the way in the path of a jet. They are being captured and released some distance away.

    http://www.theweathernetwork.com/news/articles/a-snowy-owl-bonanza-for-ontario-residents/41709/

  3. Bruce Post says:

    Hey, Bryan. I am not really a birder, but I did see a Snowy Owl just last week. I cannot remember the day, but I spotted it — at least I think it did — up here in Chittenden County. It was on a highway light post at the Essex exit onto Route 15 from the Circ Highway.

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