Homebodies and Wanderers (and One Crazy Mink)

Scott WeidensaulUpdates13 Comments

Salyer has been moseying south through northern North Dakota for the past few weeks. (©Project SNOWstorm and Google Earth)

We’re at the point in the winter where we have a sense of the personalities — and I use the word advisedly, because individual birds certainly do have personalities — of the owls we’re tracking. Some of them habitually find a spot and stick like a tick; others, at least as evidenced by their GPS data, have wandering wings.

It seems everything Newton needs is in less than 2 square kilometers. (©Project SNOWstorm and Google Earth)

We have a few of both this winter. The transmitters on all five of our 2022-23 cohort checked in this morning, as they are supposed to the first of the month regardless of how low their battery may be. Newton, our adult male tagged in southern Ontario last month, is using an area barely 2 sq. km. (0.77 sq. mi.) in extent just east of Listowel, ON. Similarly, our old veteran adult female Columbia is using a somewhat larger but still fairly tight territory south of Carman, SK, where she’s been since she migrated south in November.

Otter, who spent his first weeks back south circling the thumb of southeastern Ontario, below the Ottawa River and west of Montréal, has decided he likes the farmland near the town of Alfred, where he’s set up shop since mid-January.

On the other hand we have Salyer, the adult male tagged last month in northern North Dakota. He’s been on the move ever since, following a winding path of more than 100 miles (163 km) south, skirting widely around Minot, crossing the Missouri Escarpment and entering the Missouri Coteau, a region rich with thousands of prairie potholes and marshes. The past few days he’s been a few miles southeast of Ryder, in southern Ward County, ND.

Huron’s traveled more than 230 km (140 mi.) since she was tagged. (©Project SNOWstorm and Google Earth)

Finally there’s Huron, the adult female tagged in early January on the shores of Lake Huron in Bruce County, ON. She’s moved 230 km (140 miles) south in the last few weeks, and for the past two weeks has been south of Tilbury, ON, not far from Lake Erie.

*  *  *  *  *

Who is the predator, and who the prey? (©Ginette Kew)

They say turnabout is fair play, but one snowy owl in Ontario that briefly became the target of a predator with an outsized opinion of its abilities might disagree.

Ginette Kew was photographing a snowy earlier this winter in Colonel Samuel Smith Park in Toronto, along the Lake Ontario shoreline, when the bird leaped into the air with what appeared to be a mink dangling from its talons. A gutsy choice of prey, since mink are pretty ferocious — but Ginette quickly realized it was the mink that had actually attacked the owl, and was clinging to the bird’s rump as the owl tried to escape.

This is the definition of a pain in the, well, rump. (©Ginette Kew)

Now, mustelids (as the weasel family is known) are famously willing to punch far above their weight, but this was taking ambition to a whole new, slightly insane level. This was actually the mink’s second attempt; 10 minutes earlier Ginette had seen the mammal approach the owl, flushing the bird up to a tree. No doubt the owl, later nursing a weasel bite on the butt, wished it had just stayed up there.

Many thanks to Ginette for sharing her amazing photos and story.

What Game?
Introducing Salyer

13 Comments on “Homebodies and Wanderers (and One Crazy Mink)”

  1. What a photo! Proves you never know what you are going to see in nature! Many thanks to Ginette for keeping her cool and catching the action! Any word on what happened next? Did the mink eventually fall off ? Did the owl eventually have it for lunch?

  2. Thanks for keeping us updated on the wanderings (or not) of the snowies!
    Wow, that mink was pretty determined. Great photos Ginette, thanks for sharing!

  3. My son is an ornithologist specializing in owls and migratory birds. Owls are amazing creatures. Anyone lucky enough to view them in the wild should be happy. Great pictures.

  4. Following Scott’s assumption and the mink dropped off, it probably landed in Lake Ontario, with a long cold swim to shore. And mink being mink – it probably made it okay.

  5. For anyone who was wondering if the Snowy was ok after that attack- I did see her fly away to a nearby building afterwards where she rested for about 20 minutes before flying off again to a frozen section of Lake Ontario.
    As far as I could tell, she appeared to be unscathed by the mink attack. I went back a few days later and saw her again and she seemed just fine then also,

  6. Wow! And ouch. Amazing photo and what a lucky pic to capture. Thanks for the updates Scott. Fascinating to follow their meanderings.

  7. Proud to say that I know Ginette and her family. She is one great photographer and gets lots of great pictures. Wonderful girl. I always look forward to seeing her posts of wildlife

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *