Sleepy Snowy Owls

What do snowy owls do during the day? Most of the time by my observations they sleep or go between sleeping and waking up. A few times I have seen them fly to catch prey. The appear to be mostly sedentary during the day.

Owl after I arrived
Start of a yawn- owl before I left
Wide open mouth next to a log

I saw two different owls this day. This is the same owl when I arrived and before I left. I was there around 4 hours, but watching them maybe less than half of the time I was there. They appear to have remained in the same locations from the time I arrived until when I left. All the photographers seemed to be respectful and keep a distance.

Nature is fascinating. Enjoy it from a distance.

Male or Female Snowy Owl?

Can you tell if these are male or female snowy owls? At the website Allaboutbirds.org it says “Male Snowy Owls are barred with dark brown when they’re young and get whiter as they get older. Females keep some dark markings throughout their lives. Although the darkest males and the palest females are nearly alike in colour, the whitest birds—including the ones that played Harry Potter’s Hedwig—are always males and the most heavily barred ones are always females.

#1 on a log
#2 on the end of the jetty
#3 on the land end of a jetty
#4 in a tree

These four separate owls were all in the same general area , not far apart, on a beach one day. Some of these owls may be juveniles, born this year in the Arctic and may still be changing in colour. What do you think? Which ones are female and are any male?

Snowy Owl on Jetty

It was not a good day light wise, but we are having cloudy and rainy conditions all this week it appears. However, this trip I saw four snowy owls. Below are pictures of one of them. I know there were four because I was watching one not far away, then two flew in to hang out at opposite ends of a jetty, shortly thereafter a fourth flew in and hung out on a nearby tree.

This female snowy owl flew in to hang out on the end of jetty for a while.
She did not like this wave. She got splashed then took off.
On to other places.

Even when you think the weather may not be ideal get out , explore, and enjoy nature. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Snowy Owl on Log

After the hunt and a meal this snowy had bloody feet that it was cleaning.
Looking tired. Not sure what it ate. These owls will hunt during the day.
Tired after a meal and washing up.

Not sure what this snowy owl ate. I have yet to see it with prey. One time I saw one fly into the grass. It appeared to have caught a mouse or other small animal, but we could not see through the grass.

Get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Keep a distance from the wildlife.

Snowy Owl Return

Many birds leave the northeastern part of the United States and Canada this time of year and head to warmer locals where finding food is easier. Loons migrate to the Long Island Sound and points south. Most Great Blue Herons and Ospreys have headed south. Can you name a bird that treats New York and New England as their Florida in the winter? One bird is the snowy owl.

This snowy owl is sitting on some kind of plastic debris. It was huge.
Behaviour Around Snowy Owls

Some snowy owls from the Arctic in Canada arrived early this year. Some were seen as early as October. If you hear of them on one beach hanging out multiple days and you don’t see them head to a neighbouring beach. Don’t bring a dog. I have seen them fly off at the sight of one. Keep your voice down. Unfortunately I witnessed a man last year yelling near an owl twice and he caused it to fly off both times. Don’t go too close. Move slowly within eyesight of it and don’t make sudden moves.

Although I was able to catch this one with its eyes open several times. Its eyes were closed a lot.
Snowy Owl Habits

These birds spend most of their time sleeping during the day. They tend to fly and start hunting right before sunset. Usually they are here from around December through March.

Stretching the legs.
Always keep at least one eye open!
f

This owl was perched on a huge plastic container of some sort. I don’t know if it is something boats use or if it is industrial debris. Kind of sad, but it is one more sign of how prevalent plastic debris is.

I enjoy seeing the many faces of the snowy owl. Get out and enjoy nature. Follow the rule of trips in wild areas: carry in, carry out.

Behaviour Around Snowy Owls

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.

I was planted in a spot. The owl was looking pretty content. These are cropped a lot.
The owl turns her head when two people approach quickly from the opposite side from where I was planted.
It spooked the owl and it turned back towards me and flew off.

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.

This was after a man was yelling. It spooked the owl and off it flew. I would rather have pictures of it sitting on a dune.

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.

Snowy Owl and Photographers

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.

Teasing the photographers by acting like it would fly before sundown.
A lot of people , but I only saw early on one who was low crawling up the dune the snowy owl was on. The rest of the time people seemed to keep to a respectful distance.
Late afternoon sun.
The photographers are actually a respectful distance. They are on another dune. more than 100 feet away. Snowy owl paparazzi.
Walking around on the beach after a short flight.
I missed it flying. I was climbing down from another sand dune where I was about to give up and start the long trek to my car. Sure enough on the trip down she started to fly.
She landed on the beach.
She spent a lot of time playing with this stick on the beach.
As all the photographers started to leave, she flew to the sign by the path from the beach to the parking lot. Either she was saying good-bye or was seeing us out so she could hunt without an audience.
Yes! Now I have the beach to myself!

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.

Snowy Owl

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.

The owl mostly slept all morning on top of a sand dune. Once in a while it would open an eye slightly.

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.

Eyes opened! Quick take a shot!

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.

At this point in the day the weather would not look promising. Both eyes opened! Ocean is the dark area in the background.

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.

This was later in the afternoon. I stuck to the shady side as it appeared to me the owl was facing this way most of the time. I hope to go again and have the sun to my back. I never heard a sound from this owl. The surf was high that day and it was windy. I think this was actually a yawn.

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!

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