Birders are all aflutter because at least one snowy owl has found a temporary home among the dunes and marshes of Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge.
Photographers and birders from throughout the area have been flocking to remote Fowler Beach at the north end of the refuge for nearly a month, trying to catch a glimpse of the Arctic visitor, a breed that rarely comes to the Cape Region.
The last visit, in January 2014, was unprecedented; as many as 20 snowy owls were spotted at locations along the Delaware coast.
On Dec. 22, Anthony Van Shoor of Baltimore was among a group of about a dozen photographers in pursuit of the snowy owl. They arrived before dawn and spread themselves out along the Delaware Bay shoreline and were greeted by a spectacular red-and-yellow sunrise.
Around 7:30 a.m., the owl was spotted near the south end of Fowler Beach, about a 50-minute walk from the parking area.
Van Shoor said he's a frequent visitor to the Delaware Bay area and was at Fowler Beach on a foggy Dec. 4 morning when he first spotted the snowy owl. “It blocked me at the gate to the beach,” he said. “It was so foggy, it was almost invisible. It blew my mind.”
Van Shoor thought he was the first person to spot the owl, but he found a photograph of the Prime Hook owl on the website Maryland Birding posted two weeks earlier.
“It's brought a mess of people up here,” Van Shoor said.
A large assortment of photographs of the Prime Hook snowy owl have been posted to the Delaware Birding Facebook group. “This should be called Owler Beach,” Julie Memmolo wrote on Facebook.
According to scientists at Project Snow Storm, a good breeding season pushes snowy owls to southern regions. They said snowy owls, especially young ones, can be remarkably approachable. The owls do not move around much during daylight hours, and if they are flying, it's because they are responding to harassment.