Snowy Owls Fitted with Solar-Powered Transmitters are Tracked Online

Apr 30, 2014

The website provides tracking maps and photos of Snowy Owls that have been banded with solar-powered GPS devices.

The visiting Snowy Owls that enthralled the region this winter have slowly and silently begun to make their way north. A few are still in the area, but no ill-fated battles between Ospreys and Snowy Owls were reported, and they seem to have not caused any problems for locally breeding birds.

An interesting offshoot of the Snowy Owls was Several of the owls that were captured and removed from Logan Airport by Norman Smith were fitted with solar-powered transmitters that downloaded information directly to cell phone towers. On the website you can click on maps and follow whatever owl one chooses. I followed “Sandy Neck,” a big female caught at Logan and released on the tip of Sandy Neck, by computer almost every night. She proceeded to fly to Duxbury, back to Sandy Neck, across the Cape, over to the Vineyard, etc. She was found dead along the Beach Road in Oak Bluffs in seeming perfect health weighing over 7 pounds. The necropsy revealed that she was not hit by a car but had drown. Apparently several young owls expired the same way during the fierce northeast storm in late March. Not a cause of death any of us would have predicted for a young powerful raptor!

On a happier note, Eastern Newfoundland, a Canadian Province, which is well to the north and east of us, some 900 miles as a bird flies was just “invaded” this past weekend and few days by some large, rare and colorful European shorebirds. Comparatively, Atlanta, Georgia, is about as far away to the south as the Avalon Peninsula is to our northeast. At any rate, at astonishing 4 Black-tailed Godwits, if not the best looking wader in the world then certainly close to it, and some 30 Eurasian Golden Plovers were found after some freakish winds from Iceland blew them across the ocean from Europe. This is the most Black-tailed Godwits ever to occur in Newfoundland and the biggest incursion of Eurasian Golden Plovers, perhaps ever but certainly in a long time.

As anyone interested in birds on the Cape and Island knows it is a good idea to keep an eye on the wind direction. With these European birds a scant 900 miles away and a high pressure blocking system out to our east generating easterly winds-there may never be a better time to find breeding plumaged Black-tailed Godwits and Eurasian Golden Plover than during the upcoming 10 days. Its’ spring and you know that hope springs eternal.