Another snowy owl lands in Fairfax County, perches atop Springfield Mall


A snowy owl, first sighted by the Northern Virginia Bird Club on Feb. 1, flies near the J.C. Penney store at Springfield Mall. (Risha Perry Isom)

UPDATE, 9 a.m.: Reader Mary Carr of Fairfax says her daughter Angela, 14, snapped a photo of the snowy owl with her iPhone on January 5. If it’s the same one that’s at Springfield Mall now, that means it’s been here for five weeks, and may have been here before the D.C. owl. Photo is below.

ORIGINAL POST: After word spread through the snowy owl world that the Nation’s Capital was inhospitable to their sort, what with the slamming into their first visitor by a bus and an SUV, another explorer from the Arctic has chosen to take up residence atop the J.C. Penney store overlooking construction at the mostly demolished Springfield Mall. The owl’s other vistas include a surface parking lot to the south and a multi-level parking lot to the west, which may not sound so hot to you, but may actually provide more opportunities for food than the inhospitable climes around L Street Northwest that led to severe head trauma for the District’s now departed snowy owl.

The vigilant birding community of Northern Virginia first spotted Springfield’s snowy on Feb. 1, and Larry Meade, president of the Northern Virginia Bird Club, said the bird watchers have been showing up in increasing numbers ever since, watching from both the surface AND the multi-level parking areas. (Because in Fairfax County, we have that kind of parking variety.) It’s actually not the first snowy owl to venture into NoVa, Meade noted: other Arctic visitors have been spotted at Gravelly Point near National Airport in Arlington, near Dulles Airport on the Fairfax-Loudoun county line and at Manassas Regional Airport. Airports are a favorite spot of the snowy owl, The Post’s Mark Berman reported recently, and they’ve also been seen at Virginia’s barrier islands and beaches, the Center for Conservation Biology reported recently. The New York Times noted that the snowys have been turning up even farther south, in Arkansas, Florida, even Bermuda, and no one is exactly sure why.

Whatever the reason, “this might be a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a snowy owl” for many bird watchers, Meade said. The owl appears to take up watch in the afternoon atop the J.C. Penney (the anchor stores at Springfield Mall are still open, it’s the rest of the mall that was demolished), then flies over to Target at night and begins its hunting, the bird watchers said. It seems unbothered by the people watching and snapping away, just as the snowy owl was outside The Post’s headquarters last month. Before it got hit by a bus. That owl has been moved to an undisclosed location to continue its rehab, The Post’s Darryl Fears reports. Probably just weren’t enough big parking lots downtown.

But enough with the words, let’s look at some cool photos and try to come up with a name for Fairfax’s visitor from the north. Springy? Penney? Hoo Are You? Lord of All Who Park? Leave your suggestion in the comments, below the cool photos. And don’t all rush over there at once — there’s only parking for about 4,000:


The snowy owl perches atop the Springfield Mall, monitoring the very unbusy parking lots outside the mostly demolished mall. (Larry Meade)

The view from atop the parking garage on the west side of J.C. Penney at Springfield Mall. The snowy is in the upper left on the pipe. You need a longer lens. And this was shot with a 200 mm. Or good binoculars. (Some Guy/The Washington Post)

The snowy at night, with plenty of open space before him. Unlike certain other places. (Barbara J. Saffir)

UPDATE: Has this owl been here since early January?


Angela Carr of Fairfax snapped this photo of the owl on January 5, on Franconia Road near Springfield Mall. If this is the same owl that’s at the mall now, that means it’s been here for five weeks. (Angela Carr)

 H/T: Barbara J. Saffir, McLean

Tom Jackman is a native of Northern Virginia and has been covering the region for The Post since 1998.
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