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.