Snowy owls, usually residents of the Canadian Arctic, have invaded the United States — especially coastal states such as New Jersey — in numbers not seen in nearly 90 years.
One birding expert believes at least two dozen of the large, mostly-white owls — think Hedwig in the “Harry Potter” books and movies — are in New Jersey.
“There were probably three, two weeks ago at Sandy Hook, with one or two still there,” said Pete Bacinski, a program director with New Jersey Audubon Society who says there are at least two dozen of the owls in the state. He led one group of birdwatchers at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in Atlantic County earlier this month “and had three different owls there, each no more than a couple of hundred yards from each other.”
The owls’ arrival have touched off a viewing frenzy.
Birds have been spotted perched atop Jenkinson’s Aquarium in Point Pleasant Beach, in Asbury Park and Avon, at Jackson Memorial High School and the Cedar Creek Golf Course in Berkeley, along with more usual seaside haunts such as Barnegat Light and Island Beach State Park.
“I know for a fact they are just about anywhere with open areas,” said Ben Wurst, habitat program manager for the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. Reports have come in from Long Beach Island to the Delaware Bay shore, and one bird was hanging around the Oyster Creek nuclear reactor in Lacey, Wurst said.
But the owls’ trip has had some unpleasant moments. Three snowy owls had lethal encounters with humans at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, where birds on the field were shot by wildlife-control workers after one owl got sucked into an aircraft engine.
Public outrage at the killings prompted the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to promise that they would immediately begin a trap-and-relocate program, like one used at Logan Airport in Boston.
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Source: Daily Record