One way to avoid spooking an owl is to not approach it rapidly. If you see someone watching it safely from one side, go slowly to the same side person is viewing it from.
So the moral of the story is do not approach the owl quickly, or surround it.
A second way not to spook a snowy owl is do not talk loudly or yell around wildlife, not just snowy owls. I saw someone do just that and the snowy owl flew off. I had the opportunity to follow a barred owl family spring through summer last year. If you are quiet, they will allow you to observe from a safe distance. Whenever other people were talking in the woods or were walking a dog you had less luck seeing them.
In addition, if it is known there are snowy owls on the beach do not walk your go there. Two beaches I found snowy owls on had signs saying no dogs. However, that was not being followed. Not sure if it only applied in the warmer months. I saw an owl spooked a third time because someone walked a dog not far from it. The owl took a few short flights to avoid the situation.
Also, keep a distance where you are not stressing the owl. If the owl is stressed back away. Jones Beach had signs saying keep at least a 100 feet away. Those signs were down last time I was there. I would say that is a good distance to be safe.
Snowy owls are beautiful birds to watch. Respect the animals and other people, and you will enjoy the experience.
This is a public service announcement on my part. I went Jones Beach today and had shocking encounter with two people. They acted like I was too close to the owl. I was not. One claimed she was from the Audubon Society. She said the rule is 500 feet. I told her the signs at the park say 100 feet is the limit of how close you can get. She said there are no signs. I told her there were two I saw. She said the park did not put them up, someone just did that on their own. The man was yelling at me. First, they said I was closer than 500 feet. After I said the rule was 100, then they said I was closer than 100. I was not.
The owl got spooked twice when these people approached. The first time because two people approached from the side opposite me and at a pace that was too fast. I had been there a while and the owl had not moved. As soon as the two people approached quickly, he flew off. I was still and more than 100 feet away. The owl flew off to another dune. The second time the owl flew off was because the man started yelling again. He was standing right next to me. Again I was a lot farther than 100 feet watching the second dune he landed on. The man’s yelling spooked the owl. While he was yelling and the owl started flying, he made sure he got pictures though.
I took pictures of the signs and went into the park office near West End 2 . I told them what happened and asked what the rule was. The lady inside at the desk said 100 feet. She said they put the signs up. She told me not to listen to those people and she was sorry that happened to me.
I could say more about what they said and did, but I am trying to hold my tongue. Their actions later did not match up with their 500 foot rule needless to say.
Moral of the story, if you plan to go to see the snowy at Jones Beach follow the 100 feet rule. Do not let these two bully you. They are wrong. One would think yelling near an owl and approaching quickly from a second direction would be major issue if you really cared about owls.
2020 was the year of the owl for me. Started off spring through summer following a barred owl family, then in early December watching short-eared owls, and before the end of December catching a snowy owl. These are night photos from my first trip to see the snowy. I hope for another trip soon. All of these on this post were taken around sunset or shortly after from a distance. I have a zoom, but its largest aperture opening is 6.5 so I cannot do what the big boys and girls do with the camera. These photos are heavily cropped as well.
After sunset the owl flew down off the dune to the beach. She played with a branch for a little while, then at blue hour flew to a sign where the beach meets the path back to the parking lot.
Follow the rules when it comes to snowy owls. I believe the sign at the beach that said you can not come within 100 feet or it is a 250 dollar fine. I understand some pros try to flush them out to get them in flight. Do not do that. These birds are dwindling and we need to protect them.
Jones Beach is known for its 6.5 miles of white sand on the Atlantic Ocean on New York’s Long Island. It is also known for its outdoor concerts in warmer months and drive through holiday lights display November through January. What is it also known for this year? It is known for some snowy owls who are visiting from a much colder climate.
Jones Beach is a barrier island encompassing 2,400 acres on the south shore of Long Island. It is a state park that includes the West End Energy and Nature Center at West End 2.
It has a variety of birds that can be seen at different points in the year including oystercatchers, terns, northern harper hawks, plovers, brants, and now the snowy owl. On the day I went I was told 2-3 were sighted there within a few days prior. That day I found one.
I arrived around 10 in the morning, but took a long break in the middle of the afternoon to warm up in my car. I ended up leaving around 6 p.m. The light varied throughout the day from dark and cloudy to very sunny.
If you go to spot a snowy owl, know they are protected. Don’t make any unnecessary noise and keep a distance. I believe the sign at the entrance says to stay at least 100 feet away. It also stated there was a 250 dollar fine for violating that. I did see one person early on who I think was doing just that as he was low crawling up one side of the dune the owl was sleeping on. I have a zoom lens and these are cropped a lot.
I was so happy to get this opportunity to see this owl. My friends Andrew and his wife Theresa let me know about this place to view the owls. Thank you Andrew and Theresa! I will post more pictures taken in the late afternoon and evening in another post. Happy New Year everyone!