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 (This is an older article, but still interesting and has some decent photos.)

What's that photographer shaking for?  It's as warm as Florida to me!  (Click to see larger image.)

Snowy Owls

"He can't see me behind this stick." (Click for larger image.)

     Snowy Owls are large owls who live in northern tundra regions.  Their primary food is lemmings and when the lemming populations crash Snowy Owls get hungry.  The hungry owls venture farther and farther southwards in search of food and sometimes end up as far south as Oregon.  These periodic influxes, called irruptions, are very hard on the owls, but they do give us an opportunity to view one of nature's very specialized predators.  Snowy Owls prefer open, flat habitats resembling their native tundra.  Our open beaches with neighboring beach grass covered dunes and flats are good places to find Snowy Owls during these irruptions.  As I write this on December 21st, 2000 there are reported to be at least two Snowy Owls wintering on the river beach at the Columbia River South Jetty.  Yesterday I went up and saw one of them and took some photos through my scope.  Please understand that the wind was cold and blowing hard, so these aren't the greatest photos, but they came out pretty good for the conditions.  

     We don't know how long the owls will be around - possibly most of the winter.  If you wish to try and see the owls at the jetty, here's what you do: Go to Fort Stevens State Park, follow signs to the South Jetty of the Columbia River, park in parking lot C, walk north from the parking lot to the river beach (you would have to climb over the jetty to get to the ocean beach), turn right (east) and walk along the river beach.  The owls are large and white and easy to spot.  If they've been spooked and you can't find them on the beach, climb up onto the low fore dune and look over the grassy areas.

     If you do go to look at them, please don't disturb them.  Though grand to look at, these birds are in a struggle to survive.  Be sure not to get so close that you spook them, and if they do fly from you, pay attention and don't get so close to them again.  View them from a distance with binoculars or a spotting scope.  These photos were all taken through our spotting scope at between 40 and 60 power.  They're not great photos, but we didn't risk harming the bird to get them.

     Here are thumbnails to some more photos:

OK, these photos are from quite a while ago. Such winter irruptions happen regularly. 2006 was a big winter for Snowy Owls in Montana. Here's a link to a video about it: (Click!)

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