Blog posts

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 […]

The Laval University research camp sits under the perpetual sun of an Arctic summer sky on Bylot Island. (©A. Beardsell)

NPR screenshot

Baltimore on NPR 2

Adam Cole of the NPR science desk produced a really delightful and whimsical short film about his expedition this winter to follow the movements of Baltimore, who wintered on Amherst Island. Do yourself an eight-minute and 42-second favor and enjoy!

Into the North 1

Apologies for the gap in updates — everyone at Project SNOWstorm does this as a volunteer, and this past week a number of us were out of touch and in the field, leading birding trips or studying nesting goshawks, among other day-job kinds of things. But there have been some interesting developments in the past week and a half that we’re anxious to share in this long and detailed update. Dakota moved out of the Souris River valley in southern Saskatchewan, and on April 21, she checked in very briefly from an area northwest of Regina, SK, 165 km (102 miles) from where she’d been April 10. We’re not sure how many more connections we’ll get from her as she […]

Thanks to burgeoning cell coverage in small bush communities, we got a download from Hardscrabble on the eastern shore of James Bay last week. (©Project SNOWstorm and Google Earth)

Annoying locals; a group of American crows mobs Casco. (©Josh Fecteau)

Down to the End? 2

It’s that time of year — not a lot to report, because almost all of our tagged owls have moved out of earshot, so to speak. This past week, only two birds remained within cell range: Hardscrabble and Brunswick. Brunswick is still hunkered down in the Isle of Shoals, though I suspect the attraction is eiders, gulls and other waterbirds, rather than the archipelago’s famous scenery. This past week she spent a lot of time on Star Island, which as noted in previous updates is home to a hotel and conference center affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist and United Church of Christ traditions. Brunswick clearly likes the view from the roof of the island’s historic Oceanic Hotel (and its flagpole […]

Wampum’s Gone 3

Dancing around bad news never makes it any easier to give or receive, so I’ll simply say that we lost an owl last week, and it still feels like a punch to the gut. It was Wampum, the adult female who had been playing with fire much of the winter at several New England airports. She was found dead Thursday morning at Logan in Boston, where she’d been since March 18. Norman Smith — who trapped, tagged and relocated Wampum from Logan back in late December — says she didn’t appear to have been struck by a plane. Rather, Norman suspects she was hit with a blast from a jet engine, which can easily be fatal to even a large […]

Dakota's current haunts on and around McDonald Lake, in the wheat-and-prairie country of southern Saskatchewan. (©Project SNOWstorm and Google Earth)

Purple tracks mark Salisbury's movements near Logan until he headed north March 27, while Wampum (blue) is hunting birds in the middle of Logan's busy runways. (©Project SNOWstorm and Google Earth)

Heading North, Heading South

Spring is always a time for surprises. Owls disappear, sometimes for weeks, only to reappear when they hit a pocket of cell coverage; others move in unexpected directions. That was the case this week, when one bird that’s been off the grid for nearly a month showed up again. One pushed hard north, another went south and wound up where she’d started, and our most reliable snowy was suddenly nowhere to be found. Still another owl traded one dangerous situation for another. The nicest surprise was a reappearance by Dakota, who last checked in March 2 on her winter territory in eastern North Dakota. Knowing how sparse the Canadian cell network is just north of the border, it was very […]

A Sudden, Tragic Loss

We’re deeply saddened to note the death on Sunday of Bronwyn Dalziel, 24, an enthusiastic young bander working with our colleague Nigel Shaw in Ontario, as the result of a traffic accident while banding. Bronwyn started volunteering at the Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station when she was 16, and was currently a graduate student at the University of Toronto, working on a study of migratory bird stopover behavior at the park. She was an experienced bander with international experience, and banded many snowy owls over the years. Bronwyn and her banding partner Charlotte England were wrapping up a day of road-trapping for raptors near Essa, Ontario, when Bronwyn apparently missed a stop sign and their vehicle was hit by […]

The definition of a homebody: Baltimore's 9 ha (22 acre) activity range last week. (©Project SNOWstorm and Google Earth)

Casco’s Grand Tour

Casco — our second Maine owl, tagged in late February — pulled a bit of a disappearing act earlier this month. After being captured at the Portland, Maine, airport, she was released Down East, in a complex of immense blueberry barrens in Washington County, ME, close to the Canadian border. Casco quickly moved a couple hundred miles north, crossing into New Brunswick and Quebec near the Gaspé Peninsula around the first of March — then vanished. Well, she’s back — and an unexpected track it was, when her backlogged data downloaded. Instead of going north, like many of our snowy owls this past week or two, Casco took a loopy route far to the south, crossing six states and provinces […]


Thanks to everyone who responded so quickly and generously to our reminder that this year’s fundraising campaign is in its final days. In barely 36 hours we’ve reached more than 120 supporters, and an additional $4,000 in contributions — all of which will go directly into our research. One exceptionally generous supporter made a gift at the $3,000 level — and will receive a signed, 30×40-inch canvas print of one of our good friend Northside Jim’s gorgeous snowy owl photos as a thank-you. But we’re also grateful for every donation, regardless of the size. One of the most gratifying aspects of this effort has been the tremendous support we’ve received from the general public and birding and ornithological organizations. We’re humbled by […]

Seriously -- this owl is saying thank you (and so are we). (©Laurie Dirkx)


Can You Help With the Final Sprint?

Four days — that’s what’s left in our 2016 Indiegogo campaign. So far, we’ve raised about a third of our admittedly ambitious goal of $25,000 — funds that underwrite almost all of what we do here, from deploying transmitters to conducting necropsies and toxicology work on snowy owls. We also pledged to help support the first year of work by a Ph.D. student at the University of Saskatchewan, who will undertake the immense task of thoroughly analyzing the enormous movement dataset we’ve amassed on the 43 snowy owls we’ve tagged with GPS transmitters thus far. Aside from the “Donate” button on our website, we try to avoid pestering you, our many supporters, for contributions. We know that you know this […]