Friday, December 6, 2013


Ever since the first Snowy Owl showed up at Stone Harbor Point, I've gone there with friends everyday to see our arctic visitors from the north. I've had the pleasure of being in the presence of these regal creatures for a number of hours lately and I can't help to be transported to another place- the high arctic, where trees are non-existent, and tundra goes to to the horizon. Imagine what they have seen- what normal life is like for them day-to-day, and how out of place they must feel living on the Jersey shore for the time being. Being out of place for any bird comes with it's own challenges of finding food to eat and not becoming food themselves, even for top predators like Snowy Owls.

The morning trot out to the end of  the point.
I could go out here just for the sunrises- this only
lasted a few short minutes before it rose above the clouds.
Life is best with no filter- you never know what the day will bring!
[photo by Sam Galick]
Where prey and predators' paths meet- Snowy Owl prints crossing a small
rodent's. A recent study at Forsythe NWR in 2012 and 2013 revealed that the local Meadow
Vole (Microtus pennsyvlanicus) population was decimated from Hurricane Sandy- towards the end of
2013 the trend is finally on the rebound which is good for our winter raptors including Snowy Owls.

[photo by Sam Galick]

This female Peregrine is one of a pair that 
have been patrolling Stone Harbor Point this winter.
The big question  is- do you really want to take your vehicle
 beyond this point? Personally, I wouldn't chance it with her watching...
[photo by Sam Galick]

Terror from above- while watching the Snowy Owl
our eyes caught this bird coming in from a perch on Nummys Island 

zeroed in on the Snowy from over a mile away pumping low over the water.
[photo by Sam Galick]

Bracing for impact- The Peregrine dive bombing on the 
Snowy repeatedly caused it to throw it's wings out, making it appear 
much bigger and a threatening opponent.
[photo by Sam Galick]

"Come on, bring it!!"
[photo by Sam Galick]

[video by Tom Johnson]

What a show! This happened every morning at Stone Harbor Point the past few days- perhaps this is why there's a Snowy Owl now at a less exposed spot at the base of the toll bridge to Nummys Island perched on a boat. But is it the same bird from Stone Harbor Point? The chain of events and arrivals of birds in Cape May have been nothing short of complicated. Sometimes a timeline helps so let's have a go at it, shall we?!

Current distribution of Snowy Owls in the county.
[image courtesy of]

11/25 - 1 Stone Harbor Point; light-colored bird
11/29 - 1 Stone Harbor Point; dark-colored bird
11/30 - 2 Stone Harbor Point; two light-colored birds
12/01 - 2 Corson's Inlet SP; one light, one dark
12/02 - 2 Avalon Seawatch; two light-colored birds
12/03 - 1 Two Mile Beach; 1 light-colored / 1 light-colored different bird at Stone Harbor Point
12/04 - 1 North Cape May; single light-colored bird, 1 Ocean City- too far away to tell coloration
12/05 - North Cape May bird moved to Stone Harbor Point!

That's right! Michael O'Brien photographed the North Cape May Snowy Owl on 12/4 and Tom Johnson photographed the same bird at Stone Harbor Point the next day 12/5! The main marker between the two here is the cross on the back of the head.

North Cape May Snowy Owl photographed on 12/4
[photo by Michael O'Brien]

Stone Harbor Point Snowy Owl photographed on 12/5
[photo by Tom Johnson]
Continued efforts to pin down how many birds are here and passing through will allow us to better understand the magnitude of this flight. We'll see what the future will hold!