Scott Weidensaul


Oswego Forensics 1

Thanks to Dr. Guy Fitzgerald, veterinarian at the University of Montreal, we have a coda of sorts on the discovery of Oswego late last month beneath high-tension electrical lines a few kilometers from the Montreal airport. Dr. Fitzgerald examined Oswego’s remains, although he noted that by the time she was recovered, there was little remaining but bones and feathers. “[Her] metal band was in good shape, and I couldn’t detect any burnt tissues (feathers or feet) caused by electrocution. No fracture on any long bones, but a fracture of the lower right jaw bone,” Dr. Fitzgerald reported. “Tough to say if that happened before or after death. I can’t actually conclude anything precisely on this bird. One supposition (speculative) would […]


R.I.P. Oswego 2

This is hardly the news we wanted at the end the season: We’ve lost Oswego. Last week, as you may recall, this juvenile female was slowly working her way north and east, from Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River up to the Ottawa River along the southern Quebec border. Last Wednesday, she checked in at dusk from a powerline corridor a few kilometers from the Montreal International Airport — two or three GPS locations near one of the electrical towers. That was worrisome; electrocution is a threat to any large raptor like a snowy owl. But we also have seen many of our owls perch on such structures without a problem, and that might have been all those clustered points meant. Oswego was […]


One River North 1

We’re still watching Oswego, who is — very, very slowly — making her way north. Late last week she’d been on the St. Lawrence River near Ogdensburg, New York, but on Thursday the 18th she flew north, moving across southern Ontario and landing on Grande-Presqu’île, an island in the Ottawa River that is partially included in Plaisance National Park. After spending the day at the eastern tip of the island, Oswego moved east May 19, headed downriver, and by Friday evening she was on the Ontario shore, opposite Montebello, Quebec. Over the weekend she continued to drift downriver, moving back and forth across the Ottawa between Ontario and Quebec. By Monday evening she was hanging out near L’Orignal, ON, among […]


Let Them Eat (SNOWstorm) Cake!

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking about Project SNOWstorm at the annual banquet of the Appalachian Audubon Society in central Pennsylvania — and also the treat of enjoying a SNOWstorm-themed cake for dessert! The confection featured the artwork of SNOWstorm’s own Lauren Gilpatrick from the Biodiversity Research Institute in Maine — she’s the one who creates the cool Burly Bird series of decals, one of which features a yellow-eyed snowy. (That decal was one of the perks in our Generosity.com fundraiser this winter.) Thanks to AAS, and to Lauren for both giving them permission to use her design on the cake, and providing us with Burly Bird decals to help further the cause.


Loop the Loop

Here in the Northeast, after a wet and cold start to May the weather suddenly feels as though it’s been borrowed from summer — yet one of the owls of winter is still hanging around. The question, though, is for how much longer. Oswego, the young female tagged in January by Tom McDonald in Oswego, New York, is the only SNOWstorm snowy that’s still on the grid. After spending much of March and April at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, especially using a couple of small islands (Bass, Gull and Association islands) near Sackets Harbor, she started moving north at the beginning of May. But as we noted in our last update, she did a big loop through southern Ontario, […]


And Then There Was One 1

It’s been a while since we’ve posted an update, which doesn’t mean nothing’s been happening on the snowy owl front — just that we’ve all been incredibly busy. (SNOWstorm is our passion, but it isn’t anyone’s day job, and sometimes work gets in the way.) But the fact is that the winter season is winding down, and one by one, our tagged birds have been moving north. By this week, we have just a single owl still in cell range — a bird that was actually heading the wrong way. First, though, let’s catch up. When last we checked in with Wells she was finally moving north through southern Quebec, having left her longtime stopover site along the St. Lawrence […]


Through the North Woods 1

We’ve seen some big movements within the past week, and only one tagged owl (that we know of) remains on its wintering grounds. That one is Oswego, who is still hanging out on little Bass Island in eastern Lake Ontario, with occasional side trips to the mainland and even tinier Gull Island — this last a state wildlife management area with nesting colonies of black-crowned night-herons and herring gulls, who may not appreciate the hungry attention of a snowy owl. (Bass Island is privately owned.) After earlier issues with its voltage, the transmitter appears to functioning perfectly. Everyone else appears to be on the move. Chickatawbut, who had been among the Isles of Shoals off the New Hampshire/Maine coast for the past […]


On and Off the Grid 1

More and more snowies are moving north, dropping out of cell range for the summer — but we were pleased to get a big data dump from Oswego, who had been AWOL for the past month. Oswego, you’ll recall, had slipped off our radar at the beginning of March, after her transmitter showed a curious lack of solar recharge. Unsure whether the issue was mechanical or the effects of persistent clouds along Lake Ontario, Tom McDonald (who had captured and tagged her) made an effort to find and recapture Oswego but came up dry. On April 1, however, Oswego check in again, sending incomplete data from the previous month. Two things were clear. The reason Tom couldn’t find her around […]


Oh, Canada!

  Due to a glitch, this update scheduled for Tuesday April 4 didn’t post — sorry for the delay, and we’ll have a further update on the latest movements of the owls in another day or so. The Project SNOWstorm team ——————— It’s definitely spring, and robins and geese aren’t the only birds making serious tracks to the north. After a quiet spell, there’s suddenly a whole lot going on with SNOWstorm’s tagged owls. Dakota was missing in action last week, but yesterday morning at 4 a.m. I heard my phone buzzing, and when I groggily read the text, I found a CTT notification that her transmitter had checked in. No wonder she’d been off our radar — she was […]


Chickatawbut Chows Down 1

One of the coolest aspects of Project SNOWstorm’s tracking has been documenting the extent to which some snowy owls hunt waterbirds over open water, a practice long recognized by snowy owl researchers like SNOWstorm co-founder Norman Smith, but rarely quantified in any way until now. Readers here will recall that earlier this month, Norman tagged Chickatawbut, a juvenile female owl trapped at Logan Airport in Boston and relocated to the mouth of the Merrimack River near Newburyport, Mass. She’s been regular and fairly easy for observers to find, and last week local photographer Sean Riley got some great photos of Chickatawbut feeding on a red-throated loon at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, on the south side of the river mouth. […]