Nightly News | February 01, 2012
>>> we learned today, january was the third least snowy january on record in the lower 48 , but there is something snowy causing some commotion lately. the snowy owl . they are only usually found in the arctic, but showing up in places you never expect to see them. the story from nbc's kristen dahlgren.
>> reporter: even for the most avid bird watcher --
>> they may be looking at us right now.
>> reporter: the snowy owl can be an elusive subject.
>> you don't find owls, owls find you.
>> reporter: their white feathers usually blend into the icy tundra, but this year the snowy owl is causing a spectacle in unexpected places.
>> it's really unusual to see them down south here in the lower 48 .
>> reporter: for audubon guide brian bell and photographer paul bannick, it's what they wait years for.
>> owls are for many people the symbol of darkness, mystery, but to see this glowing white owl and we're out in the daylight.
>> reporter: in a normal winter, the town of ocean shores , washington, is lucky to see one.
>> right here, i'm photographing two owls.
>> reporter: this year a surge in population called an eruption is bringing them in unprecedented numbers.
>> these are both probably birds of this year.
>> reporter: a snowy's head turns 270 degrees. he stands two feet tall with wings five feet wide. we've already spotted at least half a dozen of these guys out here in ocean shores today. this isn't the only place the snowy owls are showing up this year. snowies have been sighted in 31 states. scientists admit there is a lot to learn about the owls and why there are so many here. a change in the food supply , a particularly good breeding year and snowfall up north could be factors.
>> these owls we are watching might be from russia, finland or might be from alaska, we don't know. and that mystery is very exciting.
>> if it's the first time you've ever seen one that, first reaction is, wow, look at that!
>> reporter: but look quickly. scientists say they won't stay for too long. kristen dahlgren, nbc news, ocean shores , washington.