They’re Off (Some of Them, Anyway)

Scott WeidensaulUpdates3 Comments

Both Huron and Newton are heading north in a serious way. (©Project SNOWstorm and Google Earth)

Just a quick update, but after a few false starts, two of our tagged owls are moving north in a serious way.

Huron’s track shows a classic “ice-owl” signature, hourly stationary locations spaced evenly apart as southerly wind pushes the ice floes. (©Project SNOWstorm and Google Earth)

Huron, after lingering for several weeks at the edge of Saginaw Bay on Lake Huron, flew 220 miles (355 km) north, up the “hand” of Michigan’s mitten, across the Straits of Mackinac and onto the Upper Peninsula, covering most of that the night of March 21-22. She landed out on the ice on Whitefish Bay west of Sault Ste-Marie, about the only part of Lake Superior that’s frozen this winter. Huron spent about 12 hours resting on the ice, which was being pushed about 1 mile (1.5 km) per hour by a southeasterly wind. Then she flew back to dry land, and over the past two days moved 170 km (105 miles) east into southern Ontario onto Manitoulin Island along the north shore of Lake Huron.

But the real speed demon has been Newton. With no preamble, on March 20 he left the part of southern Ontario where he’s spent the winter and began moving steadily north, rounding the east end of Georgian Bay, crossing Lake Nipissing and traveling 668 km (415 miles) in three days. At midday on March 23 he was 40 km (25 miles) northeast of Lake Abitibi, ON, and about halfway to James Bay. There aren’t a lot of cell towers north of his last location, so we may not hear much more from him this season unless we get lucky.

Salyer hasn’t done much in central North Dakota the past week or so, other than a continued slow amble around the prairie. Nor has Otter been doing more than local hunting flights in southeaster Ontario. It’s been a week since we’ve heard from Columbia in southern Manitoba, which is unusual for her; she’s been pretty regular with her check-ins this winter, so it’s possible she’s on the move and in a region with poor cell reception. Nor have we heard from Alderbrooke since March 16, after she made a series of long west-east flights. The silence may be because her transmitter is a little funky and having a hard time holding a charge, or because she’s moved rapidly out of cell range, which is limited once you get a few hundred kilometers from the Canadian/U.S. border. Hopefully time will tell

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