Snowy Owl Takes the A Train
Snowy owls, rare migrants to Long Island, showed up in great numbers this winter.
“It’s the largest irruption of owls I’ve seen in my 40 years of birding” said Don Riepe, director of the NY Chapter for the American Littoral Society. “The annual Christmas bird counts in Brooklyn and Queens recorded a record 20 snowy owls in the two boroughs”.
Riepe commented that an additional four or five were found out in the marshes of Jamaica Bay “and, unfortunately, JFK Airport.
The birds were all juveniles, the result of an unusually good breeding year up north due to abnormally high numbers of lemmings, their favorite prey.”
He explained that in winter, the young birds leave the Arctic and seek out areas where food such as rats and mice are more available. They usually end up on large open tracts of land such as dunes, open fields and airports, all of which resemble the tundra-like habitats of their natal territory.
The most recent snowy owl to stop in was first seen by Barbara and Fred Toborg, Broad Channel residents who live next to an open marsh adjacent to the A train.
Anyone interested in more information about the hardy raptors can contact the American Littoral Society by phone at 718-474-0896 or e-mail donriepe@- gmail.com. Riepe and naturalist Mickey Cohen lead two free monthly tours of the Jamaica Bay Refuge and Rockaway coast.