332-Owls-pic-1-200x150“For The Birds”article: Examiner News, Westchester, NY
OWLS ALL AROUND: Airports, Irruptions and Hunting Harry’s Hedwig

By Brian Kluepfel

The nocturnal, solitary and stealthy owl has both fascinated and repulsed humans for millennia and has come to symbolize many different things: harbinger of death, carrier of wisdom, messenger to the spirit world, even fortune in battle.

But most recently, in the eyes of the Port Authority of New York u0026amp; New Jersey, owls came to symbolize danger to the airplanes of John F. Kennedy International Airport. The agency began to shoot and kill Snowy Owls in December after one was sucked into the engines of a departing jet.

A public hue and cry led to an immediate stoppage of the shootings, and a friendlier trap-and-release program, similar to the one at Boston’s Logan Airport, is now in place. This was thanks to an online and telephone onslaught from conservationists who saw a better approach to keeping Harry Potter’s buddies off the runways.

This winter has seen an irruption, or mass migration, of Snowy Owls to areas where they are not commonly seen, and New York is part of the phenomenon. JFK, Jones Beach and Edith Read Sanctuary in Rye are among the sites where this large, strikingly white predator has been spotted.

Saw Mill River Audubon, in conjunction with the Bronx River-Sound Shore Audubon Society, is hosting an owlish duo of events this week in honor of this beautiful creature of the night. On Thursday at Rockefeller Park, a presentation by two owl experts from the Bronx-Sound Shore, as well as a high school senior from Croton-Harmon High School, will highlight the studies of the tiny Northern Saw-whet Owl here in New York and in Minnesota.

On Saturday, Trudy Battaly and Drew Panko will lead a group on an annual “owl prowl” through sites where the birds are most likely to be seen. (One good possibility is the dunes of Jones Beach, where as many as six Snowys have been seen in one day this winter already.) The three resident Westchester County species–Great Horned Owl, Eastern Screech Owl and Barred Owl–are also in the group’s sights.