Blog posts


All Over the Map   Recently updated !

There’s been a lot going on behind the scenes at Project SNOWstorm since the beginning of the year — though not always the working out the way we hoped or expected, which is often the way things go with wildlife. Here’s an update on what we’ve been up to. * * * * * We continue to track the movements of our returnee owls, Dakota, Baltimore and Hardscrabble — although that last bird, Hardscrabble, has been off the grid for the past week and a half, in an area with poor cell reception about 100 km (60 miles) west of Ottawa, ON. Dakota remains in the same general area around Francis, Saskatchewan, where she’s been since the beginning of December, using […]


Tom’s 500th 1

  SNOWstorm team member Tom McDonald’s been on a tear since the tail end of December, when a lot of snowies moved into northern and central New York. A bander like Tom never knows what that might mean. On Jan. 2, for instance, he got a call from a birder that there was an injured snowy owl in a field just west of Rochester, where Tom lives. “By the time I arrived, close to 14 people were already on the scene, including an animal control officer and the Border Patrol,” Tom said. “After asking a few questions about the owl, it became increasingly clear that a simple mobbing by crows turned an everyday event into a full-blown emergency of biblical […]


Challenge Match from the Bobolink Foundation!

What an incredible show of support! In just a few weeks, people across North America have contributed to Project SNOWstorm with such generosity that we’re already more than 70 percent of the way to our goal of funding this year’s snowy owl research. Thank you so much.   Now we have some even more exciting news to share. The Bobolink Foundation has issued a challenge — if we’re able to reach our goal of $20,000, Bobolink will match it with an additional $10,000 to further support our snowy owl research, both in the field and in the lab. With their offer, your donations will go even further. We’re grateful to the Bobolink Foundation, which supports collaborative conservation that engages and […]


A Baltimore Four-peat 1

We’ve tagged more than 40 snowy owls in the past three years, and every one of them has given us insights and surprises. Like parents with a large family, we try not to have favorites. But it’s fair to say that in our eyes, Baltimore is first among equals. We initially banded him as a juvenile in his first winter (and ours), in 2013-14, when he was caught at a small state airport near Baltimore, Maryland. Too small for the transmitters we were then using, he was banded and released in western Maryland, away from the hazards of an airfield. The next winter he was back, though, at the same airport. This time we gave him a GPS backpack (generously […]


Eyes on Dakota

One of the best things about Project SNOWstorm is the way it’s created a community of people interested in snowy owls — we researchers who form the core team, the hundreds of people who have contributed to make the work possible, and the thousands of people who follow what the owls are doing every winter. As we’ve mentioned several times lately, we’re especially lucky to have folks on the ground who are willing — sometimes on very short notice — to check on our tagged birds if we suspect there’s a problem, or just to get eyes on the owl to make sure everything looks good after a summer up in the Arctic. Last week, Patricia and Dan Lafortune from […]


Returning Owls! Hardscrabble and Dakota Are Back

While we’ve been looking back this past week at Project SNOWstorm’s accomplishments, we’ve also had some exciting new developments behind the scenes: the return of two of our favorite owls. Hardscrabble and Dakota are back — and Dakota, it appears, has a bun in the oven. On Nov. 10, my wife and I had just been seated at a restaurant for a rare evening out when my cell phone buzzed. I glanced at the text, and suddenly lost all interest in the menu. “CTT Data Update: Unit #27235116 (Dakota – ATY Female) has checked in,” it read. Dakota is an adult female tagged Feb. 1, 2016, by Matt Solensky and Dave Brinker in eastern North Dakota, and originally banded in […]


SNOWstorm’s Birthday (part 3)

We’re marking the third anniversary of Project SNOWstorm, which kicked off in December 2013 with our first tagged snowy owls. This is the third and final look back at what we’ve been able to do with your help, since SNOWstorm is funded entirely by donations from the public. In the lab: While the GPS transmitters we’ve placed on more than 40 owls garners the most attention, some of our most important work has taken place in the lab, with our team of wildlife veterinarians and pathologist under the direction of Dr. Cindy Driscoll of Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources. When we capture an owl for banding or tagging, we frequently take blood and feather samples, which give us insights into the […]


SNOWstorm’s Birthday (part 2)

As as we mark both our third anniversary and the start of our new field season, we’re taking a look back at what Project SNOWstorm has accomplished — all of it with your help, since everything we do is underwritten entirely by donations from the public. Our successes are your successes. Today, we turn our attention to some of the discoveries we’ve made, and how we’re sharing them with the public and with conservation professionals. Significant findings: So what have we found? Here’s a small sample of what the data have shown us: –In very basic terms, we’ve confirmed (based on thousands of photographs supplied by the public) that in the Northeast and Great Lakes, up to 90 percent of the owls […]


SNOWstorm’s Third Birthday

Three years ago this past weekend, Project SNOWstorm began in earnest. On Dec. 17, 2013, on the coast of Maryland, we tagged a young male snowy owl we called Assateague, named for the barrier island on which we trapped and released him. The small group of us who watched Assateague fly off into the darkness that night with our first GPS/GSM transmitter on his back had no idea how rapidly SNOWstorm would grow, and that three short years later we would have accomplished so much. We’re pushing ahead, and if we have the support, we plan to tag at least 10 more owls this winter, focusing on specific habitats and regions where we need a better sample. But as we mark both our […]


A New Season – and a View from the Arctic

Welcome back to a new season of snowy owl research with Project SNOWstorm! Some owls are already moving south into the Canadian prairies, the Great Lakes and Northeast, and we’re gearing up for what promises to be another exciting season of research. We’re anxiously waiting for the first returning tagged owls to appear and start downloading their summer data, and we’re laying plans for additional tagging operations in the weeks and months ahead. In the meantime, though, here’s the view from up north. SNOWstorm team member Jean-François Therrien, senior research biologist at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania,  has been studying snowy owls in the Arctic for years with Laval University in Quebec. As usual, J.F. was on Bylot Island in northern Canada this […]