Snowy Owl migration sparks bad birder behavior debate in Lancaster

Ah, the majestic Snowy Owl. Perhaps better known as Bubo scandiacus to you amateur ornithologists out there, Snowy Owls are currently in the midst of their largest migration in up to five decades. And, for Lancaster at least, it’s causing some problems.

But not because of the birds. 

The owls have been passing through Lancaster since around Thanksgiving, leading to nine sighting locations in the county. Statewide, that number jumps to 33 counties. All that flyover has resulted in daily opportunities for bird watchers and gawkers alike to get a view of the rare bird, which in itself is not a problem. That is, if those bird watchers weren’t so darn rude. 

By and large, reads Lancaster Online, the watchers have been considerate of birds and humans alike. But, of course there are always a few bad apples that seem to spoil it for everyone, whether you’re talking 3-d printers or watching birds. Take, for example, this sordid tale:

“According to Stepenaskie, ‘a woman was walking along the hay bale towards the snowy owl, stopping every few feet and taking a picture, then walking closer. When the woman got about 20 feet from the owl, it flew off. The woman walked back to her car, smiling.

‘Besides harassing the owl, she and other birders who were walking in the farmfield and along the driveway were trespassing, and they denied all the other birders of their looks at the owl.’

That prompted some to suggest the woman's photo and license number be posted to call her out.”

Or this one:

“Snowy owls have been reported at the Hazleton and Chester County airports, as well as Philadelphia International Airport and Northeast Philadelphia Airport. 

Snowy owls were shot after they struck five planes at two New York City airports and one in Newark, N.J., in December. There was such a public outcry that officials promised to switch to trap and transfer.”

Or these: 

“Getting too close to the owls, trespassing, the harm in leaving pet-store mice to feed the owls, whether the owls are starving, blocking narrow country roads, playing recorded predator calls to make the owls fly, posting specific locations of owls on public websites — all have been bandied about on birding forums recently.” 

See that? Rude. And it’s such a problem that Lancaster Online has dedicated more than 1,500 words to addressing the issue. Which is to say, birders, please stop “flushing” other birders’ birds. They deserve a chance to look, too.

[Lancaster Online]