Around the Island

Owls "irrupting" all over the East End

DON BINDLER PHOTOS | Wisdom taking wing. A snowy owl rising from an East End dune.

Photographer and contributor Don Bindler has recorded amazing sights this month. In a note to the Reporter, accompanying the beautiful images seen in this post,  Don wrote: “The ‘irruption’ of snowy owls, possibly coming at a great distance from their normal ranges, has excited bird lovers both here on the East End and across many parts of the country.

An irruption is a spectacular, unscheduled migration of large numbers of birds to areas they usually bypass. The pictures shown were taken in early December on Dune Road, Southampton.

The December 2013 irruption of snowy owls has been one of the largest on record. As many as several hundred birds have migrated from their breeding grounds in the tundra into the United States. More than 50 currently inhabit the eastern states from Maine to the Carolinas. One was even recorded in Bermuda, a first time sighting there. At least six have settled along the south shore of Long Island from Montauk to Jones Beach. There also have been sightings here on Menaden Beach and in Southold, Riverhead and Orient Point.

A snowy in flight, hunting over a beach.

The snowy owl is the continent’s heaviest owl, and can achieve heights of two feet.

Snowy owl irruptions are cyclical occurrences that are not fully understood by the scientific community. Prevailing thinking has attributed these phenomena to scarcity in their food supply, principally lemmings, in their northern habitat. However, newer theory speculates the opposite may be true. An abundance of food could lead to more successful breeding and an increase in the population, which then has to spread out and seek new winter feeding territories.

Whatever the reason, the 2013 irruption is unprecedented and delighting bird lovers with the rare presence of these magnificent creatures.”

An owl at rest, but ever watchful.