For birdwatchers, photographers, and excited observers, winter of 2013-2014 was the season of the Snowy Owl. Last year’s irruption of Snowy Owls was so substantial that they were found as far south as Florida. If you weren’t fortunate enough to see one last year, you’re in luck because they’ve returned to the Northeast for the 2014-2015 winter season. There have already been sightings of them in NYC for 2015 so it’s time to grab your gear and start Snowy Owl sleuthing.
Irresistible Snowy Owls
According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “The regal Snowy Owl is one of the few birds that can get even non-birders to come out for a look.” With their striking white feathers (flecked with black and brown spots or bars on females and juveniles) large size, and preference for daytime hunting, it’s no wonder photographers everywhere set up tripods and brave the cold to capture a shot of the majestic Snowy Owl. Once you’re fortunate enough to find a Snowy Owl and feel the piercing gaze of their golden eyes, marvel at the thick, fluffy feathers that cover even their toes, and watch them fly low to the ground in graceful glides, you’ll start looking for them everywhere.
Finding Snowy Owls in NYC
While the preferred territory of Snowy Owls is wide-open areas near water, they still show up in more urban areas as they search for prey. During last year’s Snowy Owl “invasion”, the birds were seen on crests of dunes, rooftops, telephone poles, fence posts and even atop large road signs and bus stops. New York City’s proximity to the ocean means it’s a prime spot for Snowy Owls as they seek out their prey that includes lemmings (their favorite), small songbirds, and even medium sized geese. They blend in well when there’s snow on the ground, but when there isn’t, they’re easy to spot as their white feathers shine amid urban debris. While they’re accustomed to hunting in daylight thanks to spending summers in the 24-hour daylight of the Arctic Circle, they will adapt to urban areas by hunting more at night. One of their favorite spots to visit last year was Floyd Bennet Field’s grasslands in Brooklyn, but you never know where one will pop up unexpectedly.
To find specific locations of Snowy Owl sightings in and around New York City, visit eBird.org and explore their most recent data. You can also research local birding groups and parks to see what programs they offer to find the elusive birds. When you do see a Snowy Owl, be patient, move slowly, and resist the desire to get too close, as this will disturb them and cause them to fly away. Instead, set up your equipment at a fair distance and use your zoom to capture details that the naked eye can’t see at a respectful distance.
Once you’ve captured the beautiful Snowy Owl in photographs, trust Baboo Digital to develop your prints and bring out every vivid detail from their glowing golden eyes to those feather-tufted toes.