A Snowy Forecast?

With the changing of the seasons and the cooler temperatures, I don’t think I’m alone in starting to think about Snowy Owls. I feel so spoiled after last year’s historic irruption; I want more Snowies! So, what will this winter bring? Well for what it’s worth, I have found a couple of items that encourage me to thinking we may see a least a snowy or two in our area. The first is an email from Project Snowstorm, where Scott Weidensaul reported:

…a record number of owl nests on Bylot this summer. Whether that will translate into another irruption is far from certain — much depends on weather, and Bylot is almost 900 miles (1,400 km) farther north of the region of Quebec where the breeding boom took place last summer.

The second item is from Michael Britt’s Blog. I don’t really know much about Michael Britt, he is a New Jersey birder that also spends some time in Orange County. I mostly know his name from seeing it on eBird reports. I like what he says about Snowies, mostly because it encourages me to fantasize about another winter filled with these beautiful birds. Michael writes:

“Snowy Owls are known to regionally irrupt, every 3-5 years. Winter 2000-01 was my first taste of a Snowy Owl invasion. Thereafter, I accurately predicted invasions prior to Winter 2004-05 and Winter 2008-09. A four-year cycle was the norm, for the first eight years of the millennium. Then, in Winter 2011-12, Snowy Owls staged a large continental invasion, seemingly everywhere BUT New Jersey. We all had to crowd over (not me…I refused to go see that bird), the Merrill Creek bird. I was not optimistic for winter 2012-13, thinking we probably got shafted, the previous winter. With that said, Winter 2013-14, took us all by surprise! I CONSERVATIVELY saw 19 different birds.

While Snowy Owl invasions average out to every four years (3-5), what has been a relative constant, is what I call, a “residual flight.” I’m sure there is a more technical term for this and if so, please enlighten me. In general, I have found Snowy Owl flights to be “two years on, two years off,” much like Short-eared Owls, whose flights do not always occur in tandem. While the residual flight is always smaller, last year’s flight was of such magnitude (certainly the largest in the last 90 years) that Winter 2014-15, will likely outshine all recent incursions, barring last winter of course…”

Well, time will tell. Keep your eyes open, starting right around Thanksgiving week.

Snowy Owl on Dune Road, Long Island onDecember 27, 2013. 

6 thoughts on “A Snowy Forecast?”

  1. Matt
    Thank you for this post. I too have been getting an itch to see another snowy.

    I am certain that you will be one to keep us updated on their whereabouts this coming season.

    I’m also missing seeing eagles, I haven’t seen one at the Bash in at least 6-7 weeks.

    Please remember that I want to see the long tail so when they start showing up, PLEASE let me know.


  2. Hi Matt—- Mike Britt brings a group up to the Grasslands every winter for Short ears and Roughlegs. He has been doing it for quite some time. Sometimes by himself to count Roughlegs.
    Always enjoy your blog. Three Harriers at the refuge these days.

    1. Always good to hear from you Ralph, glad you are enjoying the blog. Mike Britt’s blog is really interesting to me (even though no photos!). I was out at the grasslands not too long ago and did well with harriers, kestrels, and red-tails. Hope to see you soon. Matt

  3. Thanks for the re-posting of your video. That was some evening! Three snowies, 2 great-horned owls, & one short-eared attacking a snowy on the ground. Not one I’ll soon forget! Looking forward hopefully to good birding this winter (and maybe a bit less snow), though still enjoying the changing colors and seeking late summer/fall birds so in no hurry for winter yet. Hope all’s well with you both!

    1. If this winter is a fraction as good as last winter, that would certainly make me happy. I don’t want to wish the fall away either, but I do love winter birding. See you out there. Matt

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