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Flight of the Snowy Owl over Acadia National Park

UPDATE 1/24/2016: See updated Snowy Owl information for 2015-2016 on our Bangor Daily News blog.

UPDATE 2/16/15: Total of 17 Snowy Owl sightings in Acadia National Park have been reported to eBird.org as of 2/8/15, up from the 10 as originally reported in this blog last month, the most ever reported in one season. See updated numbers below.

UPDATE 1/31/15: Want to help fund a better understanding of the enigmatic Snowy Owl, and get some Snowy Owl memorabilia to boot? Consider a tax-deductible donation through an Indiegogo campaign by Project SNOWstorm, going on through end of March. See some amazing video of Snowy Owls in motion while checking out the fundraising page.

This time of year on the wintry mountaintops of Acadia National Park, the serious birders come to scan the landscape for the Snowy Owl, normally a raptor of the Arctic tundra.

snowy owls in acadia national park

Michael J. Good calls this his favorite photo of a Snowy Owl he saw on Sargent Mountain in December. (Photo courtesy Michael J. Good and Down East Nature Tours)

They may sit and observe a Snowy Owl for more than an hour at a time, as Michael J. Good did, watching the same owl on different days in November, on Cadillac and Sargent Mountains. “There is nothing quite like spending time with this charismatic bird from the North,” Good wrote, in sharing a favorite Snowy Owl photo with us.

Or they may post photos from their field trips on Facebook, as Rich MacDonald did, not only of the two Snowy Owls he saw the same day in December on Sargent, but also of owl pellet degrading after the rains from a day earlier. “Snowy Owls are back!” his Facebook page proclaims.

snowy owls in acadia national park

This was one of two Snowy Owls that Rich MacDonald spotted the same day on Sargent Mountain. (Photo courtesy of Rich MacDonald and The Natural History Center)

MacDonald, a naturalist and field biologist, is co-owner of The Natural History Center with his wife Natalie, while Good, a Registered Maine Guide, is owner of Down East Nature Tours. Both Bar Harbor businesses lead tours year-round in Acadia, and around the globe.

Acadia National Park – well-known for peregrine falcons, the annual HawkWatch and the Acadia Birding Festival – may also rightly lay claim to being a spectacular place to catch the flight of the Snowy Owl.

Even before the 2013-2014 headlines about the sudden upsurge of Snowy Owls migrating to the US – known as an irruption – Acadia has been an occasional winter home for Snowies. Continue reading

Winter a secret wonderland in Acadia National Park

UPDATE 12/27/2016: To see 2017 winter events, and find routes up Cadillac in winter, see our December 2016 update.

UPDATE 1/23/2016: To see 2016 winter events, go to our Bangor Daily News blog.

(To plan your trip, see Acadia National Park year-round lodging, restaurants, shopping)

Snow falling on pink granite shores, sea smoke rising from Frenchman Bay, cross-country skiers gliding along freshly groomed trails: It’s winter in Acadia National Park, the quiet season.

cadillac in winter

To get this view from Cadillac in winter, you can’t drive up the 3.5 mile summit road, but you can hike it. Be sure to be properly equipped for snow, ice and cold. (NPS photo)

You may not be able to drive up Cadillac Mountain or around the entire length of the Park Loop Road this time of year, or enjoy a popover on the lawn of the Jordan Pond House.

But the rewards for the hardy and adventurous soul are plenty: Solitude, winter’s beauty and such activities as cross-country skiing, winter hiking or watching for Snowy Owls and other migratory birds.

Winter is a secret wonderland in Acadia National Park, and it’s not a time to hibernate.

While many of the places to visit, stay and eat in area communities are closed, dozens of local businesses and cultural institutions are open for all or some of the winter.

There’s even a first-ever winter festival at Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park, from Feb. 19-22, featuring science, art and fun outdoor activities for kids and adults, and a talk by noted biologist and author, Bernd Heinrich.

winter in acadia national park

It’s a winter wonderland in Acadia National Park, with Cobblestone Bridge blanketed by snow. (Photo courtesy of our friends John and Meghan Khairallah of Acadia365)

This week, for the first time this winter, conditions have been right for volunteers with the Acadia Winter Trails Association to groom and track some of the carriage roads for cross-country skiing.

And so far this month, serious birders have reported 5 sightings of Snowy Owls on top of Sargent Mountain to eBird.org, which offers an online bird checklist.

Here are some ideas and resources to plan your trip to Acadia in winter. The winter visitor center at park headquarters on ME 233 is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during January and February, and the same hours 7 days a week from March through April 14. No park entrance fee applies this time of year.

You can check snow conditions by linking to Bar Harbor area live Webcams.

Continue reading