Tag Archives: snowy-owls

Fall a season of comings and goings for wildlife in Acadia

For wildlife in Acadia National Park, the crisp cold air and shorter days of fall signal a time to move, stockpile, hibernate or otherwise prepare for the coming winter.

baby snapping turtle

Craig Neff and Pamelia Markwood, owners of The Naturalist’s Notebook, found this baby snapping turtle in September, while they hiked along Long Pond. (Photo courtesy of Craig Neff)

Visitors who come to the park this time of year may not be able to ride the Island Explorer or sunbathe on Sand Beach, but they may be treated to sightings of wildlife in Acadia that the typical summer tourist rarely, if ever, sees – like baby snapping turtles hatching and making their way to water, Snowy owls migrating south from the Arctic tundra or, perhaps, moose in rut.

With 37 species of mammals known to exist in Acadia (and another 18 types of mammals unconfirmed or lost to history), 11 known species of amphibians, 215 known species of birds, 33 known species of fish and 7 known species of reptiles, according to the park’s online species lists, there’s plenty of opportunity to see wildlife in Acadia, whether during the fall or any other season.

We feature here some of the things you can watch for, and how you can keep track of wildlife in Acadia, by posting your own sightings on a citizen science database we started at www.anecdata.org, or on other databases like www.eBird.org, or by checking the postings of others. Or you can download the park’s checklists of known species, for your own paper-and-pencil record.

schoodic woods campground

The elusive Spruce grouse can be found along the new Buck Cove Mountain Trail that connects to the new Schoodic Woods Campground run by Acadia National Park.

We’re about to add our own recent sightings of the elusive Spruce grouse, and of a garter snake, to the “Wildlife Sightings in Acadia National Park” database on Anecdata. Thanks to fellow blogger Jeanette Matlock of A Picky Traveler for recently adding her sightings of White-tailed deer, Wild turkey, Common eiders and Hairy woodpecker in Acadia to the database.

And thanks, too, to Craig Neff and Pamelia Markwood of The Naturalist’s Notebook, with locations in Seal Harbor and Northeast Harbor, for letting us share some of their photos and insights about wildlife in Acadia in this blog post.

buck at schooner head overlook

Jeanette Matlock, blogger at A Picky Traveler, took this photo of a buck with golden antlers at Schooner Head Overlook in October 2014. She recently uploaded it to the citizen science database we started on Anecdata.org, “Wildlfe Sightings in Acadia National Park.” Thanks for sharing, Jeanette! (C) MDIBL, Anecdata and contributors

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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.

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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.

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Flight of the Snowy Owl over Acadia National Park

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