Rare snowy owl spotted on Hatteras Island …WITH SLIDE SHOW By LARA RIZZUTI
Note: Two years ago, a rare snowy owl spent some time around Hatteras
Island between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and birdwatchers are still
talking about what a thrill it was. Read the story and see a slide show
of the owl, which hung around the Cape Point area for about a week.)
came early this year for many on Hatteras Island as a snowy owl took
refuge along the seashore. The stunning bird, renowned for its
white feathers and piercing orange eyes, was first spotted on Nov. 26
and spent over a week in the Cape Point area.
appearance in North Carolina ruffled a few ornithologists’ feathers
because the species lives predominantly in the Arctic. And, although
some migrate to the northern regions of the United States during
incursions into territory that is not their own, the range and number
of owls involved in these incursions, known as irruptions, has spiked.
has been 12 years since the last snowy owl sighting on Cape Hatteras
and islanders seized the rare opportunity to glimpse such a beautiful
and elusive creature.
“I’m never going to the Arctic to see
birds like that,” said Gee Gee Rosell, owner of Buxton Village
Books. “And I was never going to forgive myself if I didn’t get
out to see this bird.”
After discovering the owl at the northern
end of the Point, Rosell watched from a respectful distance and even
snapped a photo with her cellphone.
“It was a spectacular thing to see,” reflected Rosell. “It was truly a once in a lifetime experience.”
of the Cape Point snowy owl quickly spread and many folks -- avid
birdwatchers, nature enthusiasts, and even non-birders -- began their
own migration across the state. Neither bad weather nor the
Bonner Bridge closure seemed to deter those hoping to witness the
Mike Dunn, a self-ascribed “bird-nerd” and
naturalist blogger, travelled from Pittsboro to photograph and observe
the snowy owl. While driving on Bonner Bridge, Dunn learned of
its closure and, rather than abandon his pursuit, decided to make the
most of the trip.
The decision was well made as it allowed Dunn
to spend nearly two hours alone with the immature bird. Dunn
maneuvered himself within 35 yards of the owl and watched as it
preened, dozed off, and even did a few hunting forays.
not seen a snowy owl before so it was quite a thrill,” said Dunn.
“It was an awesome experience, especially getting to spend some time
alone with it.”
During this time, Dunn used a long-range lens to take breathtaking photos that captured the various moods of the bird.
“It was great,” recalled Dunn. “The light was beautiful and I just watched him do his thing.”
poor weather the following day, Dunn spent time observing the bird,
talking with other admirers, and was, overall, stunned by his
experience with the snowy owl.
Although the bird has not
been spotted on Hatteras Island since December 4, its phenomenal
appearance spotlighted the snowy owl’s beauty and drew attention to a
potential ecological threat toward the species – signaled by the fact
that more owls are moving out of their traditional range.
(You can see more photos and a video of the snowy owl and read Mike Dunn’s blog about his encounter with the owl at http://roadsendnaturalist.wordpress.com/.
Scroll down past the newest post until you get to his Dec. 7 post about
his trip to Hatteras, entitled “The Many Faces of Hedwig.)