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Field Notes: a Northwest nature blog

One of the reasons many of us live in the Pacific Northwest is the natural wonders that amaze us all. On this blog Seattle Times writers and photographers will share their explorations of the natural world from snowcaps to whitecaps. Write us at with your own sightings, questions and wonders to share.

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December 5, 2012 at 1:07 PM

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Capitol Hill Snowy back on the wing Saturday at Volunteer Park

Last week I reported that the region is enjoying a visit by snowy owls, in an echo of last year's spectacular irruption.

One of those owls was spotted ripping up a seagull on Capitol Hill, causing quite the sensation with photographers.

Some quick work by Don Reiff of Seattle working with a serious telephoto garnered some amazing shots of the snowy feasting on a seagull Nov. 11.

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A female snowy owl feasts on a seagull on Capitol Hill

Dan Reiff took this photo and reports the owl snacked on the carcass every 45 minutes or so, and slept on it to protect it.

But the owl didn't look right, it was unable to fly. The Sarvey Wildlife Care Center in Arlington collected the bird November 13, and checked it for injuries, said Suzanne West, executive director for the non-profit. The bird didn't have any obvious injuries, but spent several days being pampered at the center, feasting on rats and other delicacies.

The bird has recovered, and will be released back to the wild this Saturday at Volunteer Park. in Seattle, as close to where the owl was captured as possible.

The public is invited to watch the release, which will be at 11 a.m., West said.

West said just look for the center's ambulance, which will be up at the entrance at 15th Avenue East. In addition to watching the owl fly off, an education specialist from the center will be on hand to answer questions about the owl.

Here's another good place to learn more about them: BirdNote.

Meanwhile, the snowies are continuing to thrill photographers.

This photo, from Paul Hollis, shows all the beauty of a snowy on the wing:.

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Paul Hollis took this amazing photo at Point Roberts in Whatcom County

Meanwhile, nature photographer extraordinaire Paul Bannick reminds us that the owls will let you know if you are getting too close. Any change in behavior -- even a change in how widely they open their eyes -- is a sign you are getting too close and should back off. Three is no set distance; it's up to the owl.

Also, he corrects me that the birds are not here fleeing snow, they are here for food. They may seek out areas without snow cover, but will also come to places with snow -- if there is food to be had.

Here's one of his photos...a personal favorite of mine. Doesn't it look like these two iconic birds have a lot to say to each other?


Snowy Owl and Raven. Photo by Paul Bannick.

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