Big year for snowy owls?

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas for area birdwatchers who like seeing snowy owls. There’s been an influx of the tundra-dwelling birds, and chances are good that more are on the way.

Heidi Hughes, manager of the Audubon Center near Warren, Minn., photographed this snowy owl Nov. 23 near Warren.

It’s a marked change from last year, when snowy owls were scarce in the Red River Valley.

I’ve already seen two snowy owls, including a bird I spotted Thanksgiving Day along Roseau County Road 3 north of Badger, Minn.

Heidi Hughes, manager of the Audubon Center in Warren, Minn., said three snowy owls have been spotted near Warren this month, along with other sightings near Oklee, Red Lake Falls, Viking and Thief River Falls.

Owls are an “irruptive” species that venture into the lower 48 states when rodent populations crash farther north, Hughes said, along with years after a successful breeding season.

“Some snowies are present in the Red River Valley nearly every winter,” Hughes said in a news release. “But this could be a big year for them.”

Hughes is trying to keep track of snowy owl sightings, and is asking anyone who spots one of the birds to contact her at (218) 745-5663 or by email at agassizaudubon@gmail.com.