2014-12-11 / Nature

Snowy Owl Walk at Sachuest


This Snowy Owl, a recent visitor to Sachuest Point, rests in a seaside tree and surveys a nearby field for prey. This Snowy Owl, a recent visitor to Sachuest Point, rests in a seaside tree and surveys a nearby field for prey. On Saturday, Dec. 20, the Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge will host a free, family friendly Snowy Owl talk and walk from noon - 2 p.m. Shannon Griffith, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service volunteer ,and Jack Kelly, nature columnist for Newport This Week and USFWS volunteer, will present an informative talk on the physiology, behaviors and habitats of the Snowy Owl.

Griffith and Kelly will lead participants on a guided tour along the trails of Sachuest Point in search of Snowy Owls and other wildlife species that are winter residents of the refuge, including Harrier Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, and a number of waterfowl, songbird and seabird breeds. Other seasonal avian visitors from northern regions, including Rough-legged Hawks and Short-eared Owls, are known to frequent Sachuest Point beginning in mid-December. The group will be on the lookout for these special raptors as well.


One of the most majestic animals that inhabits Sachuest Point is the whitetailed deer. Male deer, or bucks, grow seasonal antlers, racks, between April and October in preparation for mating season, also known as “the rut.” The bucks become highly territorial and use their racks to ward off other males and attract females. One of the most majestic animals that inhabits Sachuest Point is the whitetailed deer. Male deer, or bucks, grow seasonal antlers, racks, between April and October in preparation for mating season, also known as “the rut.” The bucks become highly territorial and use their racks to ward off other males and attract females. The Snowy Owl, a diurnal raptor and resident of the Arctic, stands two feet tall, has a wingspan of over five feet, and can weigh between four and six pounds. These magical creatures are the subject of legends from the Inuit, and other native peoples of the north. Local wildlife enthusiasts count this impressive bird of prey as one of their prize sightings of the year.

Last winter season brought four juvenile owls to the refuge for extended stays, which in turn led to a record number of visitors, including bird watching travelers from 23 states and three foreign countries. Sachuest Point recorded over 60,000 visitors during the time period between Dec. 1, 2013 and March 1, 2014.


Coyotes roam and hunt across the habitats of Sachuest Point and can be observed dashing for cover when human visitors are present. Coyotes roam and hunt across the habitats of Sachuest Point and can be observed dashing for cover when human visitors are present. There have been five confirmed sightings of three separate Snowy Owls at the refuge in recent days, and more are anticipated. Reports from across New England indicate that a number of juveniles are moving south, and at least one all white male adult has been sighted at Sachuest Point in the past two weeks.

Identifying animal tracks and scat will be another focus of the tour. “We don’t always see the wildlife that lives within the boundaries of the refuge, but we can identify them by what they leave behind. Tracks and scat will assist us in determining what animals crossed the trails and may be present on Sachuest Point, such as whitetailed deer, coyote, skunk, mink and many others. If we are lucky, we may be able to observe some of these species during our walk,” Griffith said.


Jack Kelly, a native Newporter, is a wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experiences with others. Jack Kelly, a native Newporter, is a wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experiences with others. Griffith will also be available for questions and guidance for parents and young artists interested in the federal Junior Duck Stamp Science through Art Competition.

Participants are asked to bring their own binoculars and telescopes and to dress for the season. For more information, call 401-847- 5511 or contact Sarah Griffith, USFWS, at sarahgriffith@fws.gov.

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