Yes, there are more owls

The mild start to winter in the Okanagan has been welcome news to many, including ornithologists. 

The numbers of species like American robins and dark-eyed juncos are in the hundreds, according to the North Okanagan Naturalists Club's latest bird count.

Typically, this time of year, bird counts reveal those species are in the dozens.

"It changes depending on the year," explains Rick Bonar, bird count co-ordinator. "We get a few species every year that we get surprised by, but you never know what you're going to find."

Much to the delight of many, there seems to be an increase in the number of owls spotted throughout the region.

"Yes. Short-eared owls seemed to be quite abundant this year," says Bonar. "One of the fellows from the club was out at Swan Lake the other day, and he said he saw nine short-eared owls."

Bonar says the most logical explanation for the increased numbers is the mild winter we have been having. 

"Short-eared owls hunt over open grasslands, and if the snow is too deep, then they can't access their small mammal prey. And there is not much snow this year. They are also a species we call a short distance migrant, which means that they only go as far south as they have to to meet their needs," says Bonar.

"That is a species that is often active during the day. Most owl species are pretty much nocturnal, so you're not going to see them." 

The short-eared owl is one of two owl species that populate the North Okanagan. The other is the great horned owl.

"Great horned owl is a year-round resident," says Bonar. It breeds right in the city."

As we see more snow accumulate, we will probably see fewer owls. 

More Vernon News