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 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 […]

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 […]

Wampum is Back! 2

As readers of this blog know, we’ve had a very bad feeling about Wampum — an adult female that Norman Smith captured at Logan Airport in Boston just after Christmas, tagged and moved to Cape Cod. She quickly moved southwest, along the necklace of the Elizabeth Islands, winding up at tiny, remote Penikese Island, off Cuttyhunk in Buzzards Bay. She made one quick trip the mainland — and then dropped off our radar in mid-January. Because our CTT transmitters communicate through the cell network, if an owl’s out of cell range (or in a local dead spot) when it’s time for the weekly transmission, we often have gaps; the transmitters continue to log data, and will send them the next […]

Ice Owls

If there’s been a theme that was missing so far this winter — one that had been nearly constant in previous years — it’s been ice. Snowy owls love ice. For example, researchers with Laval University in Quebec (including our SNOWstorm colleague Jean-François Therrien from Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania) have documented how some adult snowies leave the breeding grounds in autumn and actually head north, not south, spending the winter on the frozen Arctic Ocean. We’ve seen the same attraction to ice with our tagged birds, especially on the Great Lakes. The past two winters, many of our owls spent weeks at a stretch on the ice, presumably hunting waterbirds in open-water areas, much as those Arctic-wintering owls do farther […]

The Three Amigos, and Other Owls 8

It’s always a little thrill when the cell phone vibrates and the text messages start coming in: “CTT Data Update: Unit #27236551 (Salisbury 4Y Male) has checked in.” And then another, and another, until we have the weekly report from our far-flung tribe. The three amigos (well, two amigos and an amiga) were back together on Amherst Island this past week, and another snowy continues to flirt with airport trouble. Our easternmost owl likes the beach, and our westernmost is enjoying her big-sky horizons on the prairie. One is happily on ice. We’ll skip Dakota, our newest owl — we just updated everyone yesterday on her capture in North Dakota. So let’s start with Salisbury. He’s continuing to play with […]

Weekend Update: Jan. 30

It was a pretty quiet week for our tagged owls — though one of them was courting danger, briefly back at an airport we’d really hoped he would avoid. We’ll start with Flanders, who remained on the north shore of Lake Ontario, having ambled back southeast of Napanee, Ontario, to the farmland around Hawley, just a few kilometers from the lakeshore. After having spent most of the past month out on a small islet off Amherst Island, she is hunting the small dairy farms that make a patchwork of fields and pastures in this area. Still on Amherst itself, Baltimore is wearing a hole in the map, rarely straying from his winter territory just west of Stella. A number of folks were […]

Three’s a Crowd? 1

Most winters, Amherst Island is one of the best places to find snowy owls, and that’s certainly the case this year — especially if you’re looking for a snowy owl with a Project SNOWstorm transmitter. Two of our owls, Flanders and Baltimore, have been on Amherst for the past month or so. And although Flanders moved off the island last week, another of our 2015 tagged birds, Chaumont, has moved in. Maybe they thought three was a crowd. Meanwhile, on the New England coast we have one owl sitting tight, one owl on the move, and one who didn’t phone home this week. More about them in a moment. Flanders has been on Amherst since mid-December. But on Jan. 14 […]

Say Hello to Wampum! 17

Here’s a great way to ring out the old year and usher in 2016. The newest Project SNOWstorm owl is Wampum, an adult female captured at Logan Airport in Boston byJeff Turner, Logan’s wildlife biologist, and relocated by Norman to a safer spot on Cape Cod earlier this week — with one of CTT’s new third-generation GPS/GSM transmitters on her back. She’s the 36th Snowy Owl we’ve tagged since Project SNOWstorm started in December 2013. What’s more, this is Norman’s 35th year of work with snowies at Logan, one of the longest-running Snowy Owl projects in North America. During the mega-irruption of 2013-14 he moved more than 120 snowies from the airport, but even a more normal winter like this one, when numbers […]