[CT Birds] Snowy Owl?

peeplo at aol.com peeplo at aol.com
Wed Dec 7 14:44:31 EST 2016

Hi all,
In general, I do not post the location of owls to the listserv for obvious reasons. Species such as Long-eared Owls seem particularly susceptible to disturbance. Snowy Owls pose and interesting dilemma as to birding ethics. They are often in marshes and other inaccessible areas in winter where they are viewable from a safe distance. I would feel comfortable reporting those to the listserv. The rub is that they don't always stay inaccessible, and I don't want to see them stressed or injured. If they're in a place like Great Meadows, in Stratford, or Milford Point where they can get back into the marsh if needed, I tend to worry less. But, even then, where is the balance point between appreciation and access and too much of the same causing disturbance? 

In the case of the Snowy at Silversands, it has been around for two days in a high traffic park, it can get into areas where people can't reach it, and it's not far from large marsh at Milford Point. It seemed Ok to report it. Others feel otherwise, and I respect that. I would encourage people not to approach any owl too closely for any reason. I suspect, (given my experience) that it is often the general public, not birders, that approach Snowy Owls too closely. Snowy Owls are spectacular creatures, and it is understandable that people would want to see and get close to one, especially as most people don't carry binoculars nor big optics to do otherwise. It seems paramount then that birders educate one another and the public to minimize disturbance. Under the right circumstances, there is a lot of good that can come from the public's positive interactions with nature. Unfortunately, it only takes one disturbance to do damage... hence the reticence to report sightings, even of Snowy Owls. Doing what is best for the owl is never a bad thing... 

Frank Gallo,
Life is short. Bird often.

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