Inaugural Snowy Owl Season 2020 in the Books!

As we all sit at home during these chaotic times and try to find things to do during our quarantine, let me give you a final update from our Snowy owl project this winter. It is the perfect distraction if you ask me!

Since I last reported on owls, we stood at 5 owls captured for the season, including an exciting foreign retrap that we found out is at least 6 years old and was originally captured at the Detroit Metro Airport.  Then we had many days of “poor weather” or at least what we considered poor in regards to attempting to catch owls. The only day that seemed to be good was March 30th. Therefore, we decided to make one more trip to our various sites to see what owls were still around. On this trip, I was accompanied by Steve Baker, a longtime volunteer, supporter, and board member of MSRW. Now before we go any further, we drove separately as to respect the “social distancing” rule just in case anybody was concerned that we were not adhering to the CDC’s guidelines amidst the global pandemic that is going on. Anyways, enough on that…

As luck would have it, we set out late afternoon around dusk. Why? Well, because this is when the Snowys start to wake from their day-long rest and are eager to start hunting again. In the two sites, Steve and I checked we were able to count 17 owls. As luck continued to be on our side, we found a gorgeous male snowy in a perfect spot in which we could attempt to catch him. After we set-up, it only took him a few minutes before he noticed the trap, and he almost instantly came in and was captured. We were both super excited to be able to finish the season, catching yet another stunning adult male owl that was as pure white as dare I say… toilet paper! Now based on this bird’s flight feathers, we were able to determine that this was another older adult male at least in his 4th year of life, and to boot was in excellent condition—a great way to end the season if you ask me.

All we can do now is wish all the Snowy owls the best of luck as they make their arduous journey back north to their breeding grounds on the tundra wherever lemmings may be. I can say truthfully that this season was a success and that all involved with this project learned a lot about these birds, and we will be ready for their return next winter! Until then, let’s enjoy all the neotropical migrants that are showing up reassuring us that the natural processes of life continue despite whatever situation we as a species may find ourselves in. Until next time, as always stay classy and healthy.

Nick Alioto

Winter Snowy owl banding totals:

6 – SNOW (3 Males & 3 Female)

1  Female was a Foreign Recapture from 2014 (Captured at Detroit Metro Airport) released in Lansing.

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