My friend Curtis Brown, of Curtis C Home Inspections, is not only a competent and an excellent home inspector, whom I often recommend to others, but he is, also, a wonderful photographer. Curtis loves to shoot (with his camera of course) birds. I have, with his permission, used his excellent bald eagle photos in past blogs and online videos.
That shot above, taken locally by Curtis, is one of my favorite eagle photos.
Well, here is something new and interesting. About a week ago, Curtis had a long awaited and an exciting opportunity. He received a call from a past client, who said that the snowy owls had appeared at Sandy Point in Ferndale. Big surprise to me, when he told me that, because I am a Whatcom county native and I have never seen a snowy owl outside of a zoo or a bird sanctuary, nor did I know that they were ever seen here nor did I guess that they would be out gallivanting around during the day. I think of owls as being proverbial "night owls" so to speak.
Below is a shot of a snowy owl, sitting right there by a chimney, at Sandy Point in the middle of the day.
I was intrigued by the photo and asked Curtis for more information. He told me that snowy owls are Arctic birds that nest and breed in the open tundra of Alaska and Canada as well as Eurasia. They say to heck with trees and nest in indentations on the ground, lining their nests with moss. The main diet of the species consists of lemmings but they will prey on birds and small animals. Snowy owls are prolific hunters, sitting and waiting for available prey, and feeding often.
The average snowy owl is 23 inches high with a 52 inch wing span. Think about it, that is more than 4 feet across and the average bird weighs 4 pounds. Take another look at a snowy owl and put the size of the bird in perspective.
So I have lived in Whatcom county for my whole life and I have yet to see a snowy owl in the wild. My question was this: Why are they arriving now? Apparently, one theory is that the birds are moving south to counter a decline in the lemming population up north. This migration may be contributed to by large numbers of young birds competing for food. The end result -- younger owls venturing beyond their normal range.
In the northwest, the snowy owls are being spotted mainly in tidal marsh areas -- Boundary Bay and the Fraser River Delta in British Columbia. In Whatcom County, they have been seen at Sandy Point and Lummi Flats. Down in Skagit County, they have been spotted in the Samish Flats and around Fir island. Because of the owl's constant need for food, and the stresses caused by the species venturing so far out of familiar territory, humans should leave the owls alone -- enjoy them from a distance.