Late News from the North

Scott WeidensaulUpdates2 Comments

Columbia, at the edge of the boreal forest. (©Project SNOWstorm and Google Earth)

We’re on the cusp of May, a time when snowy owls are usually off our radar for the summer — but we actually have some late news from three of our tagged owls, while two that had been lingering in the south slipped away without leaving a goodbye note.

A run for the border, and then Salyer was gone. (©Project SNOWstorm and Google Earth)

We’ll start with the latter pair first. Salyer had been loafing in central North Dakota week after week, but on April 16 he started moving rapidly north, and checked in that evening just below the Manitoba border, southwest of Turtle Mountain, which straddles the U.S./Canada line. That has been the last we’ve heard from him, which is almost certainly a function of the sparse cell network to the north of there.

Similarly, Alderbrooke had been sitting pat west of Montréal for many weeks, and then just…vanished. The last connection we had with her was April 15; I imagine the radio silence is due to some combination of her balky transmitter, a rapid migration north and, again, very scattered cell service once she moved away from the St. Lawrence valley.

That leaves our three owls who did send up some signal flares this past week. Columbia had been off the grid since April 8, when she had been moving due west along the Saskatchewan/North Dakota line, and I’d resigned myself to not hearing anything more from her until next winter. But on April 29 she connected from just outside the town of Hudson Bay, SK (which, confusingly, is many hundreds of kilometers from that actual body of water; the name comes from a Hudson Bay Company [HBC] trading post established near there in the 1750s). She is just at the edge of the vast boreal forest, and I really do expect this will be the last time Columbia sends a postcard this season.

Huron seems to like the view at the mouth of the Moose River. (©Project SNOWstorm and Google Earth)

Huron remains on southern James Bay near the town of Moosonee (which lies near the old HBC post of Moose Factory, established in the 1670s — snowy owl migration intersects with lots of fur-trade history). She’s been on and off the ice, and sometimes using Ship Island, part of Moose River Migratory Bird Sanctuary, established for its importance to migrating shorebirds and waterfowl.

Finally there is Otter, whose hybrid GSM/Argos transmitter checks in every Monday. By April 24 he had migrated up the east side of Hudson Bay and was hanging out on sea ice in the distinctive Nastapoka arc, the immense and almost perfectly circular bight that faces the strange Blecher Islands farther out in the bay. (As always, please remember that Otter’s Argos positions, shown here, will not appear on his tracking map until he comes south next winter and his stored GSM cellular location data uploads. Sorry, the Argos data doesn’t come through the CTT servers that host the online tracking maps.)

Otter is making steady progress north. (©Project SNOWstorm and Google Earth)

A New Season Draws Near
No More Messing Around

2 Comments on “Late News from the North”

  1. Hi Scott,
    Thanks for the update. We have not looked at your website for a couple of weeks since we thought we would probably hear from Columbia next November. We hope she is successful in raising young and look forward to more data. We are with Madison Audubon Society and tagged her at our Goose Pond Sanctuary in Arlington, WI. We really enjoy watching her movements since January 28, 2020.

    Keep up the great work.

    Mark Martin and Sue Foote-Martin

  2. Great to hear some more news from the snowies in their travels north. I’m just reading about the place where Otter is, interesting almost perfect natural arc! Always enjoy your updates on the SNOWstorm owls, thanks!

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