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Snowy owls surprising visitors along Lake Erie

Snowy owls spotted along Lake Erie
Snowy owls spotted along Lake Erie
Snowy owls spotted along Lake Erie
Snowy owls spotted along Lake Erie
Posted at 6:00 AM, Dec 16, 2017

Snowy owls are showing up on the shores of Lake Erie in high numbers and sightings of these feathery, white birds are surprising Clevelanders visiting the lake in the cold, winter months.

The Snowy owl is native to the Arctic regions in North America and Europe, so when sightings of these perching birds are posted, the word gets out among non-frequent bird watchers.

Marty Calabrese, a naturalist for the Cleveland Metroparks, said he has seen a record irruption of snowy owls along Clevelandand the Great Lakes.

"While it's hard to put an exact number of snowy owls spotted in Northeast Ohio, the growth can likely be credited to successful nesting in their native breeding grounds, causing the population to rebound," said Calabrese.

As rare as these sightings seem, Calabrese said you can expect to see them show up during the colder months.  The heavy influx of the snowy owls could be due to the abundance of the owls' main food source: the lemming.

Lemmings, usually found near the Arctic in tundra biomes, resemble a rodent between a mole and a muskrat. 

Calabrese's hypothesis is the abundance of lemmings during the owls' nesting season results in a higher nesting success so no owlets go hungry because of lack of food.

Since November, there have been at least ten reported sightings of different snowy owls on the breakwalls near Edgewater Park, the East 55th Street Marina and Gordon Park. Last year, there were less than ten sightings of the Snowy Owls.