Keep your eyes peeled for the majestic Snowy Owl. The owls, which breed in the Arctic, have been seen in unprecedented numbers along the coastline in Essex County this year. Salisbury Beach State Park, the Parker River Wildlife Refuge, Nelson's Island at the end of Stackyard Road in Rowley and Crane Beach are among the places Snowy Owls have been consistently spotted in December. Most of the owls being observed in the area are hatch-year or juveniles who have been pushed out of their core Arctic habitat by adults due to a limited food supply. The juvenile Snowy Owl plumage is not the iconic white like the adults. Immature females and males are mostly white but the females show extensive brown/black barring (photo) and the males show faint brown/black barring across their bodies.
Unlike most owls, Snowy Owls are diurnal (active during daylight) and enjoy sitting in wide-open areas, like fields and beach dunes, where they often perch close to or on the ground. This behavior and their white profile make them easy to spot and observe. So next time you are taking your winter walk along the Essex County coastline, keep an eye out for the regal Snowy Owl. Enjoy, photograph, and remember to keep a respectful distance. And go to www.ebird.org for the latest updates on sightings.