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Field Notes

Covering the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest

November 30, 2012 at 7:00 AM

The snowy owls are back in town

Snowy owls are back in Seattle and around the region, thrilling birders and kicking up a ruckus with the locals … namely the crows.

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A snowy owl nobly endures the locals reacting to his presence on the rooftop of a home in Phinney. Photo by Ira Zuckerman

Some think the crows are up to more than mobbing, this might also be an educational moment for the crows, teaching more inexperienced members of the murder to avoid the dangerous new visitor. This photo was actually taken after the crows settled down. Earlier they were dive bombing the owl and raising a ruckus.

Zuckerman, a 16-year-old birder with a great eye, took these photos at his family’s home at 48th and Greenwood on Tuesday. The owl was there for about two hours, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., then flew off. The owls are being seen all over Seattle in odd places because they are newly arrived. “This will all settle down as they find their places,” said Paul Bannick, nature photographer and author of The Owl and the Woodpecker. But it sure is fun while it lasts!

Mary Bond, Ira’s mother, said she figured out something was up when she heard crows mobbing. “It was right on the top of the porch,” she said of the snowy. “The crows were mobbing it, but the owl was very mellow, it was just sitting there.

“Eventually the crows mellowed out. They sort of adjusted. Once it hit full dusk it flew ot the tops of some neighborhood trees.”

Ira first became interested in birding about eight years ago, during the last big irruption, when he got to see a snowy at Discovery Park. “It made a big impression on him, it’s sort of his totem bird,” she said of the snowy. Mother and son have been big birders ever since. And now here comes a snowy calling, right on their roof.

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A snowy owl surveys the neighborhood in Phinney on Tuesday.

Photo by Ira Zuckerman

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