Snowy Owl Roosts in Warren County

Harmony Township has a new resident, and everyone’s freaking out. A snowy owl has made a temporary nest at the Merrill Creek Reservoir and Nature Preserve.

As a life-long resident of Warren County, I’ve spent a good deal of time at the Merrill Creek Reservoir. I try to get in a hike at least once a month on some of the most breath-taking trails in northern Jersey. We had some nice weather last weekend, so I decided to spend my Sunday afternoon at the reservoir.

Upon arriving, I could immediately tell something special was going on, because the parking lot was packed for February. Once I got to the visitor’s center, it didn’t take long to figure out what was happening; everybody wanted a glimpse of Merrill Creek’s new snowy owl.

Let me just say that I was a fan of snowy owls before it was cool. During my first visit to the Raptor Trust in Millington, I bought a poster of a snowy owl to put in my room (it’s still there). Barn owls are okay, I guess, and there’s something to be said for the horned owl’s eyebrows, but nothing can touch my affection for the Bubo scandiacus.

As you can imagine, I was pretty pumped when I heard about Merrill Creek’s newest resident. However, the chances of spotting a single animal in a nature preserve are pretty slim. A few summers ago, a bald eagle picked Merrill Creek for its new home, but after months of trying, I abandoned any hope of sneaking a peek.

I tried to get some leads from the crowd at the visitor’s center. Someone told me the owl made a nest along the reservoir’s southern shore, so that was my best chance for a sighting.

I was astonished to not only see the owl, but to witness the creature surrounded by a group of hikers. No one dared to get too close, but from our vantage point, we got a good glimpse. After a few moments of posing, the bird flew off to hunt, and I continued my hike, amply rewarded for my curiosity.

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