Nature Matters: Snowy owls thrill bird watchers

By KBJR News 1

January 21, 2014 Updated Jan 21, 2014 at 10:32 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com)
Nature photographer Michael Furtman snapped this time lapse of a walking snowy owl in Duluth just the other day.
He says snowies are among the hardest owls to film.

"Snowy owls are a little spookier and they don't want you approaching them and they'll just keep moving if you do try to approach them." said Furtman.

The snowy owls are native to the arctic tundra.
When they move out of their territory in large numbers, it's called an irruption.
Brett Amundson of Hartley Nature Center thinks they're here this year due to hunger.

"They've come down to the North Shore looking for a free lunch." said Amundson.

The snowy owl irruption has bird watchers flocking to the Northland.

"Both Amundsen and Furtman tell us that to find a snowy owl, you want to stay out of the forest. Since they're from the tundra, they look for open areas." said reporter Dave Anderson under the Blatnik Bridge.

"They look for areas that remind them of their tundra. That's why they show up at airports, beaches and big open fields. Actually, the Duluth and Superior waterfront are two of the better areas." said Furtman.

Some photographers have been luring the birds with mice.
The Hartley Nature Center staff thinks that should be avoided.

"We don't want any animal to become too comfortable with humans and dependent on humans for food for survival." said Amundson.

Others feel the occasional mouse will help the winged visitors survive.
Come spring, they'll head back north so Michael Furtman hopes Northland bird watchers get a chance to look for one now.

"These are magnificent animals. When you see one fly, you are going to be stunned!"

In Duluth for Nature Matters, Dave Anderson, KBJR 6 and Range 11.

According to Michael Furtman, the most stunning feature of the snowy owl is its wingspan.
That can be as wide as 59 inches.