Well, here it is in the earliest days of March - the cusp of spring! - but it doesn't feel like it. The temperature is 12 F as I write this. Weather more befitting creatures of the Arctic than bipedal primates that are rather poorly evolved for life in the subfreezing zone. But I bring news of that most fabulous of Arctic wanderers, the Snowy Owl. Reports have predictably tapered off, but I received a small spate of new owls from a few articles that were published about the birds. These reports, alas, were of birds seen some time ago, and are not apparently present anymore at the locales of their initial sightings.
I recently saw wildlife rehabber Kristen Beck, and she filled me in a few injured owls that had been taken to rehabilitation centers. At least one of those was fixed up and released to the wild - Go, owl!
But by far the biggest breaking news on the Snowy Owl front is the nearly miraculous appearance of one in Geauga County! Geauga County, of all places! All winter long, that northeastern Ohio county was a BIG WHITE BLOB surrounded by a sea of red counties (see map below). If you add up the number of owls reported from counties abutting Geauga, the total comes to forty-seven (47)!! But no, none of the birders there could produce even one Hedwig. I don't know, maybe their binoculars needed cleaning. I had taken to tormenting my few friends up there (maybe fewer after this post) about the desolate owless landscape that they called home. But the bleak period in Geauga County ornithological history has passed - THEY HAVE AN OWL!
The poor Snowy Owl glares at the photographer from behind a post, no doubt peeved at being found out. Apparently it has been in this Geauga County locale since December. Darn good job of evading the birdwatchers by this sensational hooter, if you ask me.
Anyway, to the gist of this post. As of now, we stand at 169 owls reported, from 59 counties. If you don't hail from Ohio, we've got 88 counties, so that's a big chunk of them. And I wonder how many other owls were out there that never got reported. Probably lots. Anyway you shake it, this will probably go down as the largest documented irruption of Snowy Owls in Ohio's history. Some of the invasions of nearly a century ago might have rivaled or exceeded this one, but the numbers were not well documented.
The map is below. Look for Geauga County way up in the northeastern corner of the state. It's the county with a numeral one (1). Pay no mind to the fact that it surrounded by counties with lots of owls. I'm sure the Geauga County Birding Association members are out whooping up a celebratory storm tonight, now that they no longer must bear this owlbatross around their collective necks.