Project Snowstorm

 

Project Snowstorm.

It’s not a plan to make our winters more challenging. It’s a fascinating research project that monitors the year-round movements of Snowy Owls.

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Snowy Owl in flight, Prince Edward County, Ontario

Project Snowstorm was started last winter, in response to the historic southward irruption of Snowy Owls.  More Snowy Owls moved south from the arctic than had been seen in 40 years.

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Immature snowy owl at Presqu’ile. Note the dark colouring.

Because Snowy Owls live and breed in the arctic, they remain mysterious to humans in many ways.   Some years, like the winter of 2013-2014, large numbers of Snowy Owls move south for the winter months.

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Snowy Owl near Wellington, Ontario hunting in a cornfield

Project Snowstorm tries to answer some of the questions we have about these beautiful  and mysterious visitors, such as “Why do they come south?”  “Where did they come from?”  “How far do they travel, how fast, how high, and what paths do they take?”

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“Freedom,” a female Snowy Owl with her GPS transmitter. Photo courtesy of Project Snowstorm, Mike Lanzone

Last winter 20 snowy owls were fitted with little GPS transmitters with solar batteries, that  transmitted the owl’s locations to researchers using the cellular network.

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“Century” being released back into the wild. Photo credit: Raymond Macdonald, Project Snowstorm

Many of the owls were caught and removed from airports. They were then  banded, fitted with transmitters, and released back into the wild in safer locations.    Once the data began to pour in, fascinating stories emerged about the secret lives and movements of these owls in remote locations.

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Millcreek’s movements through Oct. 11. Although his southbound data aren’t expected until Friday, we know he was still in the Ungava Oct. 29 — and is in southeastern Ontario now. (©Project SNOWstorm and Google Earth)

This is an example of the map created by the movements of Millcreek, a Snowy Owl originally captured at the Erie, Pennsylvania airport.   It shows how he spent much of the summer and early fall in the Ungava Peninsula, then started his journey south in late October.

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Millcreek’s movements through December 1

This map shows Millcreek’s movements through December 1.   I love how it shows how he followed the north shore of Lake Ontario, right past us.   There was a day in late November where up to 12 Snowy Owls were reported at Presqu’ile Park.  Perhaps Millcreek was one of them.  Yes, this year is another great year for Snowy Owls- many of them have moved south for the winter!   Though the irruption is not as big as last year, it is still quite significant- so keep your eyes open for these beautiful arctic visitors!

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Snowy Owl on a hay bale, Wolfe Island, Ontario

I would highly recommend you read more about Project Snowstorm. Many more maps and stories about the owls are there.  Here are a couple of places to read current updates:

Project Snowstorm Blog

Project Snowstorm Facebook Page

Embrace winter!

 

 

4 Comments:

  1. Hi Leslie……glad you’re back. Love watching the migration of the snowy owl. Will have a look at the Project Snowstorm Blog.

  2. Oh wow! It’s really looking like a good owl winter already. It’ s so helpful to have the owls being tracked as well. Hope to see some of the snowies at amherst island in 2015! xx

  3. Looks like Millcreek flew right over my home on his journey!

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