Some TLC for Amherst

Scott WeidensaulUpdates10 Comments

Amherst with her hybrid GSM/Argos transmitter, when she was tagged in 2020. (©Rebecca McCabe)

One of our previously tagged owls to return last autumn was Amherst, an adult female captured in February 2020 on Amherst Island on Lake Ontario. She was fitted with what was then an experimental GSM cellular/Argos satellite hybrid transmitter. After she migrated north that spring we didn’t hear anything from her for another 19 months, until she came south last December and, from a location just south of James Bay, uploaded almost 20,000 GPS points showing that she’d nested both of the preceding summers in the Arctic.

But then Amherst went dark again, and we began to wonder if she’d come to a bad end. Several times her transmitter connected, but sent no data or a current location. CTT, which makes our transmitters, pushed through a new command to lift a precautionary limit on how much battery power a transmission could draw, in the hopes that this would at least give us a location to which we could send someone to search for her.

Instead, a few days later we got a very unexpected email from Sue Meech, who runs Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre in Napanee, ON. Amherst had been found in early March on a back porch on Amherst Island, unable to fly and with what appeared to be some bruising along the bones in one wing, and brought to Sandy Pines. Sue and her staff removed the transmitter — which was missing its external Argos antenna, hence the problems with transmitting — so they could complete her physical exams and X-rays.

Although her injuries seem relatively minor, Amherst is still showing little interest in flying, so they’re giving her the time and space in a large aviary to recoup from whatever injured her. Our hope is that if she’s eventually released, we may be able to replace Amherst’s transmitter with a new unit, but there are permit hurdles to surmount in order for that to happen. Our biggest concern now is that she continue to get the best care possible, with the hope she’ll eventually be released — whether or not we can continue to track her.

Big thanks to Sue Meech and her staff at Sandy Pines for their expert care, and to all the good folks on Amherst Island who have been supporters of snowy owls for many years.

Sad News
On the Move (Direction, um...Uncertain)

10 Comments on “Some TLC for Amherst”

  1. That is AMAZING that Amherst was found again, and without benefit of tracking. Poor gal. I’m glad she’s getting care. No owlets for her this summer, I’d imagine. But they’re tough birds, and maybe she can rebound to releasability. Glad to hear nothing is broken. What a story!!

  2. So wonderful to see this update. My husband and I have been wondering what Snowy we had rescued. Yes, we were the fortunate rescuers of Amherst. She was found at our building site on Simcoe Island. During this time of the year our tiny, three car cable ferry serving the island is not in operation. Therefore Amherst had to be walked across an ice bridge to our vehicle parked on Wolfe Island. As we had no vehicle on Simcoe Island and a 3km walk to the ice bridge, one of the full time island inhabitants ( only about 20!) came to the rescue and drove us to the ice crossing. It was then another ferry ride for Amherst on the Wolfe Islander 3 to Kingston and onto the wonderful Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre. What a journey! Sandy Pines provides us with regular Amherst updates and we wish her a full recovery and release.

    1. Rachel, thank you for clarifying exactly how (and where!) Amherst was found, and thank you and your husband so much for taking the time and what sure sounds like significant risk to get her the care she needed. Everyone at SNOWstorm is hoping she makes a full recovery and can get back to the Arctic for another successful breeding season.

  3. Thank to all of you who love Snowy Owls and are willing to take the extra mile to help wildlife. Love project Snow Storm and reading about the habitat of the Snowy Owl . Glad to know Amherst is in good hands and that she continues to recuperate .

  4. This is really incredible isnt it…a big thank you to Rachel and husband for their efforts…I know Simcoe a little and Wolfe ( more so ).. I’m not so sure Id want to walk the ice bridge but I guess you’re used to that ? I’m happy to hear that Amherst is recovering….Ill hope to see her sometime during my travels on Amherst and Wolfe! Im hoping to hear more good news about Amherst down the road sooner than later!

  5. That’s amazing news! Thanks to Rachel and hubby for rescuing her and to all the SNOWstorm team for always caring so much about the snowies, and for keeping us updated!! Wishing Amherst a full recovery!

  6. Rachel and husband, God bless you for helping Amherst.

    Amherst and Aime and the other owls no longer on this Earth…FLY HIGH beautiful owls.

  7. Rachel and husband, God bless you for helping Amherst.

    Amherst and Aime and the other owls no longer on this Earth…FLY HIGH beautiful owls.

  8. Rachel and husband, God bless you for helping Amherst.

    Amherst and Aime and the other owls no longer on this Earth…FLY HIGH beautiful owls.

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