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Lemmings on the Rebound



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Thanks to Reader Mark S for this classic. He writes:

Today’s WaPo had this item on P. B1.

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.”

I can’t help but wonder where Mr. Butcher was in January . . .

Notice how the idea that it’s bloody cold this year! isn’t considered as an explanation for why Arctic owls rarely seen in these parts are hanging out on L Street. Now, if this were the Arctic and a dragonfly or robin showed up — or if someone’s computer model were to predict that soon there might be no more Arctic owls in Gucci gulch — why, Andy Revkin might get front page treatment in the Grey Lady to detail the horrors.



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