Wells is on Her Way

If you live anywhere in the Midwest or East, we don’t have to tell you that the past week was bizarrely warm, with record-high temperatures across a huge swath of the country. That weather — coupled with the longer days — may be having an effect on the snowy owls. And one in particular, because Wells has left the building. After spending the past month on the Maine coast, having been moved from the Portland Jetport, last week this adult female made a beeline north across the state, winding up in the flat farmland along the south shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence in southern Quebec. Wells headed out after dusk on Feb. 18, stopping for a few hours […]

Catching Chase Lake

It’s been a rather frustrating winter for Matt Solensky, our Project SNOWstorm colleague in North Dakota. His hope (and ours) — that he would be able to quickly trap and tag a couple of prairie-hunting snowy owls this winter — proved to be a little too optimistic. Deep and crusted snow kept the number of owls in eastern North Dakota unusually low this season. On top of that, Matt had buzzard’s luck on the few times when came close to making a catch. In late January, for example, he had an adult male come barreling into his bownet, only to have the netting snag and the trap not close. Matt reset the trap, but while the owl made several more […]

Dakota and Hardscrabble: The Rest of the Story 1

As we’ve mentioned before, due to some unexplained hiccup the transmitters on our three returnee owls — Dakota, Hardscrabble and Baltimore — all experienced a glitch on Jan. 1, when they stopped downloading their backlogged GPS locations, leaving us without seven or eight months’ worth of stored movement data. Baltimore’s unit subsequently went completely dark (which is why we’ve tried repeatedly to recapture him), but our colleagues at CTT were able to check the other two transmitters remotely, and were confident they could recover the data from Hardscrabble and Dakota, once the owls’ solar-powered units hit a sufficient voltage level to handle an unusually long data transmission. So for the past several weeks we’ve been watching their voltage creep up […]

All Settled In

An all’s-well report on our cadre of snowies — as of the end of last week, everyone was just where he or she was expected to be. How long it remains that way, though, will be interesting to see. The days are getting longer, which may start nudging up hormone levels in our adult birds, making them restless with the first stirrings of spring. After heavy snows last week, parts of the East will be experiencing remarkable mild weather this week, although the really unseasonable warmth won’t push up into New England, New York and southern Canada. But if we have an unusually early spring, we may see the owls head north sooner than normal. We’re happy to see that […]

A Perch with an Historical View (and a Big Thank You!)

Some weeks are exciting, some weeks are more of the even-keel variety. This is one of the latter — but we do have a terrific milestone to note, with gratitude. Our five tagged owls have all settled into winter territories, including Wells, who initially had us worried that she’d hightail it back to the Portland (Maine) airport where she’d been caught. Fortunately she seems to have found a spot she likes. While it doesn’t necessarily make for exciting reports, the data all of these stay-at-home owls are generating as they move about their winter territories is exactly what we started SNOWstorm to gather — highly detailed information about the habitat selection, winter movement and hunting ecology of snowy owls. And ever […]

Trying for Baltimore 1

Like parents, we try not to pick favorites — but over the years, Baltimore has become first among equals in the 45 snowy owls we’ve tagged. Banded in 2014 and given a transmitter in 2015, we’ve tracked Baltimore north and back over several years, generating the most detailed movement record for any snowy owl, anywhere. So we were thrilled on Dec. 25 when Baltimore checked in again this winter in southern Ontario. As is usually the case, his battery was depleted from having stayed north in the dark subarctic winter. But even with the dim winter sun, his voltage was creeping up, and we were getting chunk after chunk of his backlogged data, just as we did last winter. But […]

CJAI’s New Mascot

Last winter, our tagged owl Baltimore spent a lot of time hanging out on the broadcast antenna of CJAI-FM  on Amherst Island in Lake Ontario, which brags that it’s the smallest radio station in Canada. (Their antenna is on top of a dairy farm silo.) This year Baltimore’s spending the winter west of Ottawa, but he’s not forgotten on Amherst. When Janet Scott, one of the CJAI broadcasters, came into the office today to give her weekly bird report, she was surprised to find a new owl — “Harold” — perched on the window, ready to go with what we’re pretty sure is not a standard-issue CTT transmitter. “Thought you’d get a chuckle out of what was waiting for me at CJAI,” Janet […]

Buy an Owl Shirt, Help SNOWstorm 3

Michael Boardman at Coyote Graphics in Maine has made a habit of helping bird conservation through the sale of Coyote’s tee-shirt designs, and this winter he’s doing it again to help our efforts here at Project SNOWstorm. Through Feb. 21, if you purchase any of their owl-related shirts, Coyote Graphics will donate $5 per shirt to our work — so you can look good and help our research at the same time. Not a bad deal!    

Wandering Wells 1

In our last update, we mentioned that Wells — the newly relocated airport owl — was sticking close to her release site at Rachel Carson NWR in southern Maine…at least for the first day or so. That didn’t last long, however. She checked in Thursday night, and Wells lit out pretty quickly — possibly pushed out by an untagged snowy that’s been hanging around the town of Wells and Wells Beach. Snowies can be highly territorial, and an established bird might not appreciate an intruder. Wells moved rapidly up the coast about 20 miles (32 km) on Jan. 28 and 29, as though she was heading right back to the Portland Jetport where she was initially captured. Fortunately, she stopped […]

Wells, Our Newest Maine Owl

As longtime SNOWstorm followers know, one benefit of our project is finding ways to help airport officials and federal wildlife agencies learn how snowy owls relate to airports. (Because airports look a little like the Arctic, at least to an owl — flat, open and treeless — they tend to be magnets for the birds.) Last year we cooperated with Maine Wildlife Services, the USDA agency responsible for handling wildlife issues at Maine airfields. Our SNOWstorm partner, the Biodiversity Research Institute, worked with Wildlife Services to tag two owls that were trapped at Maine airports — Brunswick, caught last January at Brunswick Executive Airport and moved to the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, and Casco, caught last February at the Portland Jetport and […]