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First sightings of 2020: 2 snowy owls spotted at Cleveland Hopkins Airport

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Posted at 1:32 PM, Jan 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-31 16:54:00-05

CLEVELAND — The winter brings anticipation for everyone’s favorite raptor, the majestic snowy owl. On Thursday, Cleveland Metroparks naturalist Marty Calabrese saw not one, but two snowy owls—making these the first sightings of 2020.

While coming back from surveying an area in Rocky River for bald eagle nesting spots, Calabrese saw two snowy owls hanging out at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, peering south from Brookpark Road.

In the video below, Calabrese caught a snowy owl in action moving its neck 180 degrees.

Over the years, the return of snowy owls has become a much-anticipated event.

“They are truly an iconic species that bring people outside,” Calabrese said.

One of the snowy owls Calabrese spotted was a female, and it wasn’t until after he checked his footage that he realized it was a female.

He could tell from the salt and pepper markings on the snowy owl that it is a female. Unlike female cardinals that fly under the radar compared to its male counterpart, the female snowy owls are the ones that are making a statement.

Calabrese says the snowy owl, which can weigh up to six pounds, is the largest owl in North America to visit our region every year.

Common myth surrounding the reason snowy owls take the journey from Canada to Cleveland is that the food source in their arctic habitat is depleted, but Calabrese said that isn't the case.

"When the food in their native habitat is abundant, they are more likely to reproduce and make the journey to Cleveland where they may also dine on waterfowl," Calabrese said.

Because the shores and surrounding areas near Lake Erie resemble their arctic habitat, Calabrese said one of the best vantage point to spot snowy owls is The 100th Bomb Group restaurant.

RELATED: January is prime time for snowy owl sightings along Cleveland's lakeshore