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Rarely seen snowy owl swoops into Harford

Fort McHenry

A snow-covered Harford County field in during Sunday's snowstorm could have been mistaken for a scene out of the Arctic Circle on Sunday – especially when a regal snowy owl found perched on a pole.

The bird, typically at home in Arctic regions more than 2,000 miles to the north, was first spotted by a Harford Bird Club member at 7 a.m. Sunday on a farm at the junction of Routes 156 and 155 near Level and Havre de Grace, known locally as the Hopkins Farm.

Bird club photographer Joe Subolefsky snapped a photo of the white owl sitting on a tree remnant at 3 p.m., club member Amanda Koss said Monday.

The bird was still hanging around the farm late in the day Monday, and a group of enthusiasts had gathered around the property in hopes of getting their own glimpse, Koss said.

"They are not normal for our area. They are really rare," she said.

A handful of snowy owls have been spotted in the region lately at sites ranging from Fort McHenry in Baltimore to Rehoboth Beach, De., according to Koss, who teaches at Harford Glen Environmental Education Center in Bel Air.

The influx of the unusual, arctic creatures happens occasionally when the owls lose their food source in the Arctic, she explained.

When that happens, they have to travel farther south. Instead of eating primarily lemmings in the Arctic, the owls have been searching for mice, rats and smaller animals around Maryland and Delaware.

"Yesterday, Joe [Subolefsky] watched it eat a mourning dove," Koss said shortly before 4 p.m. Monday. "Right now it's sitting on a piece of farm equipment."

Like many bird watchers in the area, Koss was very excited to spot the large white bird.

After one was spotted in Rehoboth Beach, she knew it was only a matter of time before the bird was seen in Harford.

"I was like, it's got to happen soon," she said.

As a "Harry Potter" fan, she also noted it was the same bird featured in the series of movies and books.

"They are really majestic-looking birds," she said.

A snowy owl was also spotted in downtown Havre de Grace in 2009, when the bird caused a stir after it was seen perched on mailboxes at Canvasback Cove in March that year. Some years before that, a snowy owl was seen in the greater Darlington area.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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