Five members of the Topeka Group and a member of the Wakarusa Group joined the Topeka Audubon Society on Saturday, January 7, for a trip to Lake Perry in hopes of spotting bald eagles. The morning was cool and clear, but with no ice on the lake, no eagles could be found. Two made a brief appearance flying overhead and then disappeared.
The trip leader, an experienced birder, suggested that we head for Clinton Lake where snowy owls had been spotted. All agreed and set a course for Clinton. Taking the road below the dam, the first thing we spotted was a snowy owl perched on the Corps of Engineers sign for Outlet Park. The owl soon caused a minor traffic jam as motorists stopped and got of their vehicles for a better look. The snowy remained perched on the sign for at least 40 minutes as cars and people continued to come and go.
According to an article in the January 14 edition of the Topeka Capital Journal, more than 70 sightings of snowy owls have occurred so far this year. The article noted that these owls are at home on the tundra of the Arctic and Sub-Arctic and Alaska. They feed on several species of lemmings and these animals have dramatic population swings that often crash. When that happens, the owls head south in search of food sources. The article described the birds as follows: “Snowy owls are large and bulky, mostly white with a few specks of dark brown or gray standing about 2 feet tall. They’re striking birds that weight about 3½ pounds but look much larger due to a 5-foot wingspan. Female snowy owls, like many birds of prey, are larger than their male counterparts. Snowy owls are the largest of the North American owls. Unlike their nocturnal relatives, snowy owls are active by day. It’s no surprise as daylight is almost continuous within the Arctic Circle during the summer nesting season.”
Members attending agreed that even though the original intent of the outing – a search for eagles – was mostly a bust, the snowy owl perched at Clinton Lake was well worth the trip.
By Paul Post, Topeka Group Outings Chair