Have you spotted a snowy owl yet?
The birds have drawn hundreds of Ohioans to Lake Erie parks, hoping to see the majestic white-and-gray fluffballs perching on piers or break walls this winter. Some lucky birders have counted 10 in one day in the Cleveland harbor.
The boom is scientists call an “irruption,” or a sudden increase in an animal population. Snowy owls are showing up all over the country, similar to a boom in 2013, said Jen Brumfield, a naturalist with Cleveland’s Metroparks.
Brumfield led a half dozen birders Tuesday in a search for the elusive owl, which has been hanging out in the harbor for weeks. We had no luck, at first.
“I know this is pretty rare to be able to see a snowy owl,” said Gary Horvath, of Mentor.
Snowy owls hatch in the summer in the open tundra, in the Arctic, Canada and Alaska. More owls survived this year because of an increase in their primary prey — lemmings. More lemmings means more food and more lining for snowy owl nests which leads to more owls making it to adulthood.
The owls are loners, Brumfield said. They like open space, like Whiskey Island or Lake Erie Bluffs in Lake County, where they can hunt at night and spend the day cat-napping as they roost, on the ice, rocky breakwalls or poles.
Becky Johnson of Lakewood has looked 12 times for a snowy owl. She’s been diagnosed with a rare mantle cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and has taken up owl scouting while she’s undergoing treatment.
“Now I’m hanging out with the bird peeps,” Johnson said.
Did we find the owl?
Watch the video above to see our search for the snowy owl.