, Newburyport, MA

Local News

March 18, 2014

Look 'hoo' is here

Invasion of snowy owls has heads turning

NEWBURYPORT — Snowy owls used to be a rare sight, but this winter has witnessed a phenomenon that’s not been seen here before.

They seem to be everywhere along the local coast — sitting on tree stumps in marshes, on rooftops and chimneys, telephone poles, on the tops of dunes — anywhere that provides a good view of their hunting grounds in the salt marshes and sand dunes.

At Salisbury Beach and Plum Island, it’s become a common sight to see several cars pulled over and numerous people with binoculars and cameras focusing their attention on the handsome Arctic owls.

“There is an eruption of snowy owls this winter,” said Melissa Vokey, Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center administrative coordinator. “They had a population explosion up north. The theory is that there was such a huge lemming population, which is what snowy owls eat, that they produced more eggs and the hatchlings survived.”

In fact, there’s so many snowy owls around, Plum Island’s Parker River National Wildlife Refuge has become the go-to place to bring unwanted owls that have been hunting the vast flat areas of Logan International Airport in Boston.

Norm Smith, director of Mass Audubon’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum and owl expert, released the 100th snowy owl captured at Logan this winter back into the wild on Saturday. Nicknamed “Century,” the owl was briefly relocated to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and then released with a lightweight GPS signal transmitter attached.

“Norm has released quite a few snowy owls at the refuge in the past,” deputy refuge manager Frank Drauszewsi said of Smith. “It’s just that this one, because it was the 100th owl trapped at Logan this year, which is the most he ever trapped, Massport recognized the good public relations that goes along with this because there are other airports in the country that will actually terminate birds. They don’t do that, they trap them and release them, so it’s good (public relations) for Massport and it is a good thing for the owls.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints

Port Pics
AP Video
Raw: Japanese Soldiers Storm Beach in Exercises Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Two Women Narrowly Avoid Being Hit by Train In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast New Sanctions on Key Sectors of Russian Economy Crayola Announces Family Attraction in Orlando US Ready to Slap New Sanctions on Russia Kerry: Not Worried About Israeli Criticism Boater Rescued From Edge of Kentucky Dam Girl Struck by Plane on Florida Beach Dies Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre House to Vote on Slimmed-down Bill for Border Looming Demand Could Undercut Flight Safety Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue
Special Features