by Jeff Goulden
According to Merriam-Webster Online, an irruption is defined as a species "undergoing a sudden upsurge in numbers especially when natural ecological balances and checks are disturbed". Washington State has seen an irruption of Snowy Owls in both 2012 and 2013.
Scientists don't know for sure what causes an irruption, but it is almost certainly linked to cycles in the lemming population. A Snowy Owl will consume 3 to 5 lemmings per day so the survival of Snowy Owls depend on this food source. Since most of the owls at Ocean Shores are dark spotted juveniles it is thought that the younger birds were forced by older owls out of their native habitat in search of alternative food. Ocean Shores with its abundant population of shore birds is an ideal substitute for the owls' native arctic tundra.
Ocean Shores on the Pacific Coast has seen significant numbers of these magnificent birds in January and February of this year. Damon Point is a strip of land with lots of dune grass and driftwood logs. It is a very similar habitat to the owls' native arctic tundra. The owls have excellent vision from their perch on the logs and when they see their prey they can fly off to pursue it.
November through March are probably the ideal months to visit Damon Point if you want to see Snowy Owls. Visitors need to respect the bird’s habitat and privacy. Snowy Owls are relatively calm birds but don't like to be harassed. If you want to photograph the owls use a telephoto lens, keep a respectful distance and don't rush toward them. If the bird begins to move as you slowly approach, back off.
Damon Point is on the southeastern tip of the Ocean Shores Penninsula.
For more information and directions to the point go to the Washington Trails Association. To learn more about birding in the Grays Harbor area go to the Grays Harbor Audubon Society.
More pictures of Snowy Owls can be seen in my Snowy Owls Gallery at Istockphoto.com. Other bird species can be seen in my Joy of Birds Gallery. Signed fine art prints from many of my photographs are available for purchase on Fine Art America. For special offers and to follow my photographic journey please Join My Email List.
Jeff's Photo Blog
In this Photo Blog I have combined my 50 year passion for photography and my love of the natural world, creating a portfolio that reveals nature in its pure and simple beauty. I am pleased to share my passion with you through this blog.