All that I have wanted to do for the past week is find as many Snowy Owls in Centre County, PA as possible. Although 3 different Snowys have been found around State College in the past week, I was determined to try and find as many more as we could and take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Anna Fasoli and I drove 70 miles through farmland to the East of State College a few days ago and didn’t find any Snowys but did have 4 Northern Harriers, 1 Cooper’s Hawk, 15 Red-tailed Hawks, 1 Rough-legged Hawk, and 7 American Kestrels. Ben Vizzachero and I drove 80 miles through farmland to the Northeast of State College yesterday and again didn’t have any Snowys but we did see 1 Golden Eagle, 4 Bald Eagles, 8 Red-tailed Hawks, and 8 American Kestrels. Today Ian Gardner, April Sperfslage, and I drove 80 miles to the North of State College and were finally rewarded with a beautiful (and self-found) Snowy Owl up in the strip-mines as the sun was setting! We also had 1 Cooper’s Hawk and 1 Red-tailed Hawk today.
The strip-mines in Northern Centre County are a great area to search for winter raptors and sometimes produce incredible numbers of Rough-legged and Red-shouldered Hawks, as well as Northern Shrikes. The habitat looked great for Snowy Owls, so I was excited to see if we could find any there. Sure enough, as we were driving down Rusnak Hill Rd, I spotted a Snowy Owl perched on a mound of rocks and dirt near the fenced in area owned by the gas company. A few hunters were parked up near the owl and were loading up their gear to leave for the day. When we talked to one hunter later, he said they had noticed the owl too. After a few minutes of watching the owl, it flew and glided down over a row of short pines trees but went out of view from the road. Hopefully this owl sticks around the area!