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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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!
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: