Snowy Owl at Belle Isle Marsh

Snowy owls have arrived in the New England area en masse this winter. The reason for their southern surge isn’t known, but the population may have exploded following an increase in their favorite prey, the lemming, last summer. Owls are leaving the crowded Arctic to stake out their own territory, finding their way to places such as Boston.

We first attempted to find a snowy owl on Castle Island. While we saw a number of other birds, we did not find an owl. Following e-bird reports of owls at Logan Airport that could be seen from Castle Island, we trained our camera on the edges of the runways. This is what we saw:

A snowball at Logan that could be an owl.
Is this a snowy owl?

Is that snowball on top of the rocks a snowy owl? We didn’t have the scope to find out. At least we left knowing that the staff at Logan treat their owls well.

We tried again today, following reports of a snowy owl at Belle Isle Marsh Reservation in East Boston. We staked out the marsh from the observation tower for many minutes before we noticed a sleek white bird gliding low across the water. It was our snowy owl! It perched on a small shrub poking out of a strip of an island, where it stayed for the rest of our visit.

Snowy owl at Belle Isle Marsh
Can you find the snowy owl?

Too far away to get a good shot, but close enough for us to readily identify it. Here’s a close-up of the owl:

Snowy owl perched on a shrub
Snowy owl perched on a shrub

E-bird has some good information on snowy owls.

The owl didn’t have much snow around to make it feel like home. But maybe the ice floes on the water were a close substitute?

Ice on the marsh
Chunks of ice floating on the marsh waters.

A flock of buffleheads swam in the marsh. The females have a white streak across each cheek, while the males are mostly white with iridescent bands over the head and around the neck.

Male and female bufflehead

On our way out, we passed a red-tailed hawk by the side of a trail. It was looking down at the leaf litter.

Red-tailed hawk on the hunt
Red-tailed hawk on the hunt

A sudden swoop down and the hawk had a meal: an unfortunate mouse. We left the hawk to finish its meal in peace.

Red-tailed hawk with mouse for prey
Red-tailed hawk with mouse for prey

Complete e-bird checklist.

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