On the Sunday afternoon following Christmas, I met Christina, Jen, Natalie and Maya at Alum Creek spillway to see the ‘resident’ snowy owl.
Snowy owls nest and spend their summers on the Arctic tundra. During winter, owls will move south into Canada. During irruption years, they will also show up throughout the US.
Often, when a snowy owl sighting is reported on a Birding page, its location is in an agricultural field or its length of stay in a given area is a day or two, meaning very few are able to find it.
This snowy owl arrived at the Alum Creek Dam on November 22nd, and has stayed. I thinking it has found a perfect location, one that has everything it needs.
Snowy Owls like wide open, treeless areas and to perch on an elevated area. Each day this owl perches partway up the dam wall on large rocks, overlooking a large meadow.
The meadow most likely provides a good supply of voles and rabbits and other critters. On the reservoir side of the dam is a steady supply of waterfowl.
On their wintering grounds, snowy owls do most of their hunting at dark. During the day they sit, in one spot, for long periods of time, napping, occasionally turning their heads, opening their yellow eyes to survey their surroundings.
This snowy owl is thought to be an immature owl. He/she is white with dark barring, similar to an adult female. An adult male is mostly white. They are the heaviest owl of North America due to their thick, insulating feathers.
Because of this owl’s consistent return to the same location, its habit of mostly sitting throughout the day, and the accessibility of the location, large numbers of people have come to see it. There is a ditch at the base of the dam which forms a natural barrier. Most people who have visited have kept a respectful distance.
There is a sense of awe to be in the presence of this creature who came from and will return to a land most of us will never see and can barely imagine.
Thanks to Matt Mason for giving me permission to use his video of the Alum Creek Snowy Owl.
Photo: Natalie and Maya and the Owl.