A snowy owl -- an Arctic species rarely seen this far south -- spent part of yesterday afternoon surveying downtown Washington from a high ledge at 17th and L streets NW. The owls, which usually spend winters near the U.S.-Canada border, have turned up in several places across Virginia and Maryland this year. Birding experts think the problem might be a shortage of lemmings, an important prey, on their home turf.
Bird experts said the last time a snowy owl was seen this close to the city's urban core was 1994, when one was spotted at Reagan National Airport. Greg Butcher of the National Audubon Society said he hoped this owl would move on from downtown: "We don't have too many lemmings here."
-- David A. Fahrenthold