Owls need elbow room

A snowy owl carries prey — a ring-billed gull it had captured — near Baker's Beach in Westport. Observers say that owls seem to be targeting birds here — gulls, American black duck, bufflehead and others. PAUL CHAMPLIN PHOTO A snowy owl carries prey — a ring-billed gull it had captured — near Baker's Beach in Westport. Observers say that owls seem to be targeting birds here — gulls, American black duck, bufflehead and others. PAUL CHAMPLIN PHOTO

The recent visit by snowy owls is a rare treat, one to enjoy from a distance.

A snowy owl carries prey — a ring-billed gull it had captured — near Baker's Beach in Westport. Observers say that owls seem to be targeting birds here — gulls, American black duck, bufflehead and others. PAUL CHAMPLIN PHOTO

A snowy owl carries prey — a ring-billed gull it had captured — near Baker’s Beach in Westport. Observers say that owls seem to be targeting birds here — gulls, American black duck, bufflehead and others. PAUL CHAMPLIN PHOTO

These are beautiful birds, far from their Arctic home. The fact that they are here suggests all is not well with these owls. Experts think they’ve headed south because their normal food supply — mostly Arctic lemmings — has dried up. So they now find themselves far from home in a strange, crowded place full of people, trees and other things they aren’t used to. Finding food is likely a challenge here too —we’ve got squirrels and gulls but precious few lemmings. Surviving winter here won’t be easy but we can help by giving them a wide berth and keeping the pets under control. Savor the spectacle — through binoculars and the long lens.

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