UPDATE 3/11/15: Added below are details of new Snowy Owl children’s book as perk in Project SNOWstorm fundraiser, and of Orion the Hunter constellation that Orion the Snowy Owl is named for.
In this banner year of Snowy Owls, Maine wildlife researchers are stalking Portland and Brunswick airports, trying to capture and tag with a GPS transmitter one of these mysterious raptors, which seem as at home on the Arctic tundra, as on airport runways or the open summits of Acadia National Park.
This Snowy – to be the first in Maine to get a transmitter through Project SNOWstorm, a nationwide scientific effort – will be named Orion, in honor of the P-3 Orion planes that used to fly out of the former Naval Air Station in Brunswick, and the constellation Orion the Hunter, said Lauren Gilpatrick, permit and band manager for the Biodiversity Research Institute in Portland.
“It’s quite possible,” said Gilpatrick in an e-mail, that this Snowy “could make its way to Acadia. Some birds appear to prefer coastal habitats during the winter.”
Satellite tracking of these enigmatic raptors to better understand them began with the tagging of 22 birds from Massachusetts to Minnesota last winter, after an explosion of Snowy Owls – known as an irruption – brought thousands of them south, the most in nearly a century.
This winter, in a surprise to researchers, has turned out to be nearly as active with Snowies. To take advantage of this extra opportunity, Project SNOWstorm, a nonprofit volunteer collaboration formed just last year, is trying to raise $15,000 by March 27 through an Indiegogo campaign, to help cover 15 to 20 more solar-powered GPS transmitters, including the one to track Orion in Maine.
With about 3 weeks to go in the 2-month fundraiser as of the writing of this post, the campaign is about $2,000 short of its target. The Indiegogo campaign video, below, features amazing footage of Snowy Owls, and explains the need for more research.