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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 GaspĂ© 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 […]

The Pull of the Pole

There’s no longer any doubt that spring is pulling many of our tagged snowy owls back home toward the Arctic. In the past week we’ve seen several birds make flights north, while others have dropped off the grid, apparently having moved beyond cell range. For example, Hardscrabble and Tibbetts both left their wintering grounds on the northeast shore of Lake Ontario — Hardscrabble on March 13, and Tibbetts three days later. They followed close, parallel paths to the northeast, and on March 17 were roosting only 3 km (1.8 miles) from each other on the farmland along the Ottawa River near Cumberland, Ontario. Hardscrabble then pushed on much farther north. On March 23 he checked in again (off-schedule; we’re not […]

Spring is in the Air

If you live in the Northeast, you didn’t need much of a hint that spring is coming early this year — it was T-shirt weather across much of the region this week. Here in Pennsylvania, where I live, sheets of migrant tundra swans, Canada and snow geese were papering the skies the past few mornings, and spring peepers and wood frogs are in full voice. This is March? The rapidly advancing season may have been working on our tagged owls, too, because suddenly a couple of our most reliable birds were AWOL — most notably Dakota out on the North Dakota prairies. She’s checked in, regular as clockwork since she was tagged in January, but Thursday night she failed to […]

Buckeye’s Back!

Here in the northern hemisphere, the days are getting noticeably longer — and that’s having an effect on birds of all sorts, including snowy owls. The past week or two we’ve started seeing some significant movement — not migration, and not necessarily northbound, but a sign of seasonal restlessness setting in. And with predictions for dramatically warmer weather across much of the East and Midwest this week, we may see the start of true northward movement very soon. But first, perhaps the most exciting news of the past week — the return of Buckeye. Last winter this adult female was a repeat offender at the Detroit airport, trapped and relocated a couple of times by USDA Wildlife Services before being […]

Owls, West to East and in Between

It’s been an exciting week with our two new owls, Hardscrabble and Casco, but of course we still have a lot going on with our other tagged snowies — so let’s get to the update. Starting out West, Dakota continues to shift between her northern and southern hunting areas in the northeastern corner of Stutsman County, North Dakota, this fascinating bimodal pattern she’s been following since we tagged her. She spent most of her time last week around several lakes between Courtenay and Kensal, then made a quick transit south to her secondary activity area southwest of Courtenay. With things opening up and the first waterfowl heading north, those lakes are going to be even more attractive to a hungry […]

Casco: Northward, Ho!

Earlier this winter, Project SNOWstorm worked with its partners at the Biodiversity Research Institute and USDA’s Maine Wildlife Services to tag our first snowy owl in Maine, a female named Brunswick. It’s taken a bit more than a month, but last week we tagged our second Pine Tree State snowy, another female that we’ve nicknamed Casco. After a rush of owls in December, snowies became scarce at Maine airports in the first weeks of January –a good thing, because the owls are a hazard to planes and vice versa. But a few snowstorms this month changed the dynamics, and a number of owls appeared in recent weeks at the Portland International Jetport, which asked Wildlife Services to trap and relocate the […]