We have an unusual visitor near our home. A snowy owl. Isn’t he beautiful!
What a treat for all of us. Hedwig, I hope you enjoy your visit!
From our local Newspaper, The Daily Herald:
SPRING HILL, Tennessee— The snowy owl may have gained fame as a mail carrier in the Harry Potter series, but a rare sighting of the bird generated dozens of bird watchers to flock to Spring Hill this week.
Wearing coats, hats and gloves, dozens of bird watchers, who call themselves ‘birders’, bore the winter weather to watch the snowy owl sitting across a field off Highway 31.
Many of the birders were from the Tennessee Ornithological Society and Alabama Ornithological Society. The birders placed spotting scopes on tripods for a close-up view of the snowy owl which, to the naked eye, appeared as just a white dot on the horizon.
Alison Glascock of Birmingham, Ala. drove to Spring Hill to see the snowy owl with other birders.
“It’s my first time to see a snowy owl and I’ve been bird watching for 25 years,” Glascock said, adding it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Greg Harber, of Birmingham, said he’s seen a snowy owl in Alaska, but the Spring Hill sighting was just the second one he had ever seen.
“Our group from Birmingham thoroughly enjoyed our foray into Tennessee to see the owl. It was a treat!” Harber said, adding the snowfall only added to the authenticity of their snowy owl experience.
Harber said the snowy owl is native to the Arctic where they eat lemmings, small rodents found in the tundra.
“You can tell it’s a young bird because of the brown hues on its feathers,” Harber said, adding the snowy owl probably migrated south to find a better food source.
Mark Greene, of Trenton and a member with the TOS, said he found out about the bird through the Internet.
“Each state has a list of bird sightings,” Greene said. The TOS website has a link to a list of recent sightings.
Chuck Nicholson with the TOS said the Spring Hill snowy owl is the 12th recorded in the state.
“The most recent previous record was the bird on December 11, 2001, on Cherokee Lake in East Tennessee,” Nicholson said, adding that before the 2001 sighting, the previous record of a snowy owl sighting was in January and early February in 1987 near Dover.
He said Tennessee is well south of this bird’s normal range.
“This bird does, however, occasionally ‘irrupt’ with numerous birds going farther south than normal in the winter,” Nicholson said. “These irruptions are apparently a response to population cycles in its major prey species, which are primarily lemmings and other rodents. During some of these irruption years, several birds have been simultaneously reported from well south of their normal range. The irrupting birds tend to be young birds, which may have been driven out by more dominant adult birds.”
The snowy owl is listed as an “accidental” species, meaning three or fewer records in the last 10 years, on Tennessee’s official bird list compiled by the Tennessee Ornithological Society Bird Records Committee.
Some birders have dubbed the Spring Hill snowy owl “Hedwig”, the name of Harry Potter’s owl mail carrier.
Spring Hill’s snowy owl sighting was first reported on Dec. 3. More information on birding is available at www.tnbirds.org/.