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A Christmas present for area birders

Tom Jackson • Jan 3, 2014 at 9:30 PM

Ohio’s invasion by snowy owls is good news for northern Ohio birdwatchers, some of whom have never seen the white bird.

“It’s just a beautiful bird that a lot of people don’t get a chance to see. It’s pretty exciting to see one,” said Mary Warren, a Sandusky birder.

Read more about Mary Warren's quest for a "Big Year" by clicking HERE

“Everybody is hoping to see a Snowy. It’s a life bird for a lot of people,” she said.

A life bird, explains birder Sandy Burris of Sandusky, is an addition to a birdwatcher’s list of birds.

“You count a life bird as the first time you see the bird” she said.

Burris has seen a snowy owl before, although not this year.

Warren has not seen one this year, either, although she’s seen one in Erie County before.

“I actually saw one in Sandusky years ago,” she said. “It was at a marina downtown”

Snowy owls usually are very rare in Ohio. There are typically only a few sightings a year, Warren said.

But this year, the owls have moved south to occupy Ohio — the term for the invasion is an “irruption” of owls — and they’ve been seen in 35 different counties in Ohio this winter, Warren said.

The birds particularly like to hang out at airports, because the bare ground reminds them of their native Arctic tundra, Warren said.

In the movie “The Big Year” possibly Hollywood’s only big-budget film about birdwatching, a character played by actor Owen Wilson destroys his marriage by his obsessive pursuit of a sighting of the snowy owl.

The snowy owl irruption means local birders should have an easier time spotting the coveted bird.

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