Several snowy owl sightings in Petrolia area

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Allanah Vokes Photo This image of a snowy owl was captured by avid birder Allanah Vokes with her telephoto lense near Waterworks Road in December. Wildlife experts urge people to observe the birds from a distance and like Vokes, to use long range lenses for photos.

Heather Brouwer/Local Journalism Initiative

Now is a good time to be on the lookout for Snowy Owls in Lambton County.

“It’s easier to see a Snowy Owl now than it might have been 20 years ago,” says Pete Chapman, a birding enthusiast with Lambton Wildlife Inc.

“There definitely seem to be more sightings than in the past.”

Snowy Owls — relatively large, mostly white birds of prey — spend their summers in the Arctic, and head south in the winter months, where they generally stay from November to March.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, their migrations are variable, making their whereabouts in any season difficult to predict. But there have been a number of recent sightings in the area.

To date, there had been 12 Snowy Owl sightings reported on SnowyOwls.ca in Lambton County in the past month. And according to data from Cornell, this season has already had more sightings than those of two decades ago.

Of course, as Chapman points out, there could also be more people out looking for the birds, as he believes birding is becoming more popular.

Plus, it’s a COVID-friendly activity. “Driving around in a car is something we’re still able to do.”

There have been a few Snowy Owls reported sightings just outside of Brigden and Petrolia this season, and Chapman has spotted the birds near the Sarnia Yacht Club.

“Just because you go to places where they’ve been seen doesn’t mean you’re going to see once,” he cautions.

Snowy Owls prefer areas with plenty of low, open terrain, and they are most often spotted on the ground or on low features, like fence posts and hay bales.

Chapman recommends sticking to back roads and taking along a pair of binoculars for best results. Wildlife experts remind people to stay well away from the birds and use those binoculars or a telephoto lens to get a very good view of the birds.

And no matter where you see one, though, Chapman says “any day with an owl is a pretty good day.”