Waiting (again) for Oswegatchie

Scott WeidensaulUpdates6 Comments

Oswegatchie's movements around Mine Canadian in Malartic, Quebec, though June 16 (most recent movements in purple). (©Project SNOWstorm and Google Earth)

Oswegatchie’s movements around Mine Canadian in Malartic, Quebec, though June 16 (most recent movements in purple). (©Project SNOWstorm and Google Earth)

Oswegatchie’s last check-in was June 16, when he was still hanging around the Mine Canadian in Malartic, Quebec — the largest open-pit gold mine in Canada.

He’d been steering clear of the pit itself — not surprisingly, since a big hole in the ground is not the kind of habitat that would appeal to a snowy owl. (To get a sense of the scale of the mine, there’s a scrolling panoramic imagine here.)

For the most part, Oswegatchie had been staying near the processing center and some of the tailings areas to the south of the pit, but we’ve been uneasy about even this, since even if he’s out of the blasting zone there’s a lot of vehicular traffic and potential toxin issues in a place like that.

He missed his check-in on Thursday evening, June 19, which may well mean he’s finally moved on from Malartic. He’s skipped transmissions many times in the past when he was out of immediate range of a cell tower, but as we’ve pointed out previously, he is now so close to the northern edge of cellular coverage in that part of Canada that a fairly short flight to the north (on the order of just 30 or 40 km [18-25 miles]) would put him past the last GSM tower in that region.

It’s barely 300 km (200 miles) from Malartic to the shores of James Bay, beyond the boreal forest and in subarctic habitat that would suit a young snowy owl fine for a summer loafing location. That’s a fairly easy flight, taking just a night or two, for one of these birds. Has Oswegatchie finally made that trip, like the rest of the tagged owls? Only time will tell.

Losing Oswegatchie
There and Back Again

6 Comments on “Waiting (again) for Oswegatchie”

    1. Yes — all good things come to an end, and it sure looks like Oswegatchie finally passed north of the last GSM cell towers. Given that we expected most of the owls to be gone by early May, getting an extra five or six weeks of data from him was a nice gift. And we hope to see him sometime in the next winter or two, coming south with a few of our other tagged owls, each bearing a huge load off stored Arctic movement data.

  1. looks like all the owls are back up in the artic again. I’m glad that Oswegatchie moved back up to the artic the gold mine is never a safe habitat for any animal there are a lot of hazards there and it be really sad to find out that another accident has happened with another owl. like with Philly, Plum, or with Sandyneck.

  2. Yes, it’s good that Oswegatchie flew back home, that mine is huge and can’t be safe for an owl. Now we just have to wait a few months (or more) to hear again from the snowies.

    1. Well I don’t know about that because it is not certain that the owls will come back next year. some could die and if others live it still isn’t certain that the owls will come into our cell towers. Some owls stay in Canada all year long. this year was also a very big irruption, and a lot of owls may never come this far down again until it’s been another 20 or 30 years.

      1. Well, I hope some of the owls will return within range of some of the cell towers in the next couple of years. I’m in Canada…the winter before this year’s irruption we saw 3 snowies in a rural area close to Ottawa, they were there all winter. This winter there were more in the same area (because of the irruption).

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