First sighting of South Sound snowy owl in five years

NISQUALLY: Bird last seen in area in 2006

JOHN DODGE; Staff writerDecember 6, 2011 

At least one, and perhaps more, snowy owls have been seen in South Sound in recent days, part of an uptick in snowy owl sightings throughout Western Washington.

A snowy owl or owls have made an appearance in the estuary restoration area of the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, generating a lot of interest from bird watchers, refuge manager Jean Takekawa said.

The large-headed, heavy-bodied owl typically inhabits and breeds in the Arctic in open areas above the tree line.

However, in some years, they spread out and migrate south, usually when the voles and lemmings they prey on in their breeding range are in short supply, Takekawa explained. The phenomena is called an eruption.

“The last winter we had snowy owls here was in 2006,” Takekawa said.

Steve Daubert, who lives on 39th Loop Northeast near the refuge, said a snowy owl perched on his roof Sunday for several hours.

“I’m 60, and this is the first time I’ve seen a snowy owl in the wild,” he said.

The Tweeters’ website used by birders to report bird sightings is filled with snowy owl observations in recent days. Among the places the rarely seen owl has been seen are north Kitsap County, Dungeness Spit near Port Angeles and Leadbetter Point on the Long Beach Peninsula.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444

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