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Snowy owl visits WCAX - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Snowy owl visits WCAX

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Snowy owls normally live their lives in the high Arctic, but there have been many sightings of the big birds in our region this winter.

When snowy owls come flooding down from the North, the phenomenon is known as an irruption and Channel 3 got a front row seat Friday morning.

Landscapers were getting a jump on spring cleanup on the WCAX campus, when an unexpected visitor dropped in.

"We were working here at WCAX and we happened to hear the crows and we saw over there on the front lawn a big owl. It was pretty cool. It was a big huge white snowy owl and we saw the crows all going crazy," said Adam Tipper, a landscaper. 

By all accounts this has been an extraordinary year for spotting snowy owls throughout New England, well south of their usual hunting grounds in the Arctic Circle.

"The reason we are seeing so many snowy owls this year has everything to do with their food," said Larry Clarfeld from the North Branch Nature Center. 

Clarfeld says they have been getting a lot of calls from people who have spotted these owls, and here is why.

"So in the Arctic breeding ground, snowy owls like to eat lemmings and this past summer of 2013, there were so many lemmings in the Arctic that many young snowy owls were born but once winter came there wasn't enough food for them to stay in the Arctic so we had them moving south in record numbers," said Clarfeld. 

And now, they are moving back north again. 

"When he decided to take off the crows started attacking him again," said Tipper.

Not everyone it seems is excited to see this visitor from the North.

"And because they are a raptor they are going to be harassed by crows or blue jays or any number of other song birds that have already started to build their nests in Vermont right now," said Clarfeld. 

The good news is researchers have been able to catch and attach transmitters to some of the snowy owls that visited this winter, and hope to gain new insight into the life cycle of this big bird.

If you are interesting in tracking the snowy owls click here.

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