Tag Archives: project-snowstorm

No GPS-tracked Snowy Owl to fly over Acadia this season

Despite multiple attempts and close calls since February, Maine wildlife researchers have been unable to capture and outfit a Snowy Owl with a GPS transmitter. The possibility of tracking one of these majestic raptors of the Arctic flying over Acadia National Park will have to wait.

snowy owl on cadillac mountain

Flight of the Snowy Owl over Cadillac Mountain, no GPS transmitter tracking available. (Photo courtesy of Michael Good and Down East Nature Tours)

“No, we did not have any luck before the winter window ‘closed’ on 3/15,” said Lauren Gilpatrick, permit and band manager for the Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) in Portland, in an e-mail. “We are waiting until next winter to try again.”

Gilpatrick, along with BRI colleague Chris Desorbo and USDA Wildlife Services’ John Wood, have been stalking airports in Portland and Brunswick, hoping to relocate a Snowy Owl out of harm’s way, while also outfitting it with a GPS transmitter as part of Project SNOWstorm, a national volunteer research effort to better understand these mysterious denizens normally of the Arctic tundra. Their efforts are detailed in Project SNOWstorm’s blog.

“These owls are very intelligent, powerful, and absolutely gorgeous. It has been an honor to spend so much time watching them,” Gilpatrick said in an e-mail. Younger owls may linger into May in Maine, but the adult owls tend to head north by early March, and would have provided the most valuable data for better understanding their wintering habits, Gilpatrick said.

snowy owls in acadia national park

Snowy Owl spotted on Sargent Mountain, no GPS transmitter tracking available. (Photo courtesy of Rich MacDonald and The Natural History Center)

Beginning with the 2013-2014 winter, Snowies have migrated into the United States in such record numbers – a result of a population explosion up north with plentiful lemmings, a favorite food – it prompted the founding of Project SNOWstorm. Nationwide, more than 30 owls have been outfitted with transmitters since then, providing insights into the bird’s winter ecology, according to the project’s Web site.

March 27 was the last day to donate to Project SNOWstorm’s Indiegogo campaign, to fund more GPS/GSM transmitters and other aspects of the research.

Although there are no plans to capture and tag a Snowy Owl in Acadia National Park, according to researchers, it’s possible that any owl that may be captured next winter at Portland, Brunswick or any other Maine airport, outfitted with a GPS transmitter and relocated, could very well fly over the park.

But even without GPS data for a Snowy Owl in Maine yet, it’s evident that Acadia National Park is a hospitable environment for the birds. A record number of Snowy Owl sightings, 17, have been reported so far this season to the online eBird database this winter, with Sargent and Cadillac among the hot spots.

Continue reading

Could Snowy Owl named Orion fly over Acadia National Park?

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.

snowy owl on cadillac mountain

If this Snowy Owl, pictured in flight over Cadillac Mountain, wings it over to a Maine airport, could this be Orion? (Photo courtesy of Michael J. Good and Down East Nature Tours)

“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.

Continue reading