Snowy owls, really icy owls?


This is a video in Portuguese about banding a snowy owl chick at its nest.

From the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council in Canada:

Snowy owl — a marine species?

Wildlife satellite studies could lead to a radical re-thinking about how the snowy owl fits into the Northern ecosystem.

“Six of the adult females that we followed in a satellite study spent most of last winter far out on the Arctic sea ice,” said Université Laval doctoral student Jean-Francois Therrien, who is working with Professor Gilles Gauthier as part of an International Polar Year (IPY) research project to better understand key indicator species of Canadian northern ecosystems.

The finding flabbergasted the biologists who are now curious to find out if Inuit seal hunters ever encounter the large white birds on the ice in winter darkness.

“As for what the birds were doing there, they were possibly preying on seabirds,” said Gauthier. “Bird researchers at coastal field sites have observed snowy owls attacking eiders in winter. This hypothesis will be strengthened if we can match up the locations of our birds with the position of open water leads in the ice as recorded by other satellite data.”

The researchers find it intriguing that the top Arctic bird predator, like the top mammal – the polar bear, is also part of the marine ecosystem. The possible implications for the species will be discussed by Therrien this Wednesday in Quebec City at the Arctic Change Conference, one of the largest international research conferences ever held on the challenges facing the north.

It was very surprising, said Therrien, how far the individual birds migrated from where they were banded on their nesting grounds on Bylot Island, north of Baffin Island.

“The satellite data showed just how dramatic the owl movements are. They flew huge distances. One owl went to Ellesmere Island, another flew straight to North Dakota and a third ended up on the eastern point of Newfoundland,” he said.

The researchers say that this winter should provide many southern Canadians with a better than normal opportunity to see the magnificent birds.

“We had the largest abundance of lemmings in many years in our study area this past summer,” said Gauthier. “The owls had no problems raising young, so we were informally predicting a strong outward movement of young owls this winter.”

And indeed, judging by numerous newspaper reports and naturalist sightings, that prediction has already come true.

In fact, if anyone has a really ingenious idea to keep them away from airports, there is at least one airport authority that would like to hear from you. One owl-plane collision has already been reported this year at Montreal-Trudeau International Airport in Dorval.

“The support from IPY and NSERC and the advances in satellite technology have given a huge impetus to what promises to be a revolution in our understanding of this key northern species,” said Gauthier. That knowledge can’t come soon enough, the two researchers said.

See also here.

Snowy owl in Minneapolis, USA: here.

Snowy owl in Cornwall: here.

Snowy owl in the Channel Islands: here.

Snowy owl on Guernsey: here.

July 2010: A major new campaign to restore Jersey’s coastlands has been launched. The initiative is a bid to revive the island’s decline or locally extinct farmland bird species and is a joint venture by Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, the National Trust for Jersey and the States of Jersey Planning and Environment Department: here.

Snowy owl returns to the Hebrides for 8th year: here.

Texel snowy owl, goshawk, and brent goose: here.

Brilliant feathers of white snowy owls dazzle rivals: here.

Canadian botanists embark on old-school Baffin study: here.

4 thoughts on “Snowy owls, really icy owls?

  1. Nunavut’s mysterious ancient life could return by 2100

    20 September 2012 Université de Montréal

    Under embargo until 21 September 2012 08:00 GMT

    Global climate change means that recently discovered ancient forests in Canada’s extreme north could one day return, according to Alexandre Guertin-Pasquier of the University of Montreal’s Department of Geography, who is presenting his findings at the Canadian Paleontology Conference in Toronto today. “According to the data model, climate conditions on Bylot Island will be able to support the kinds of trees we find in the fossilized forest that currently exist there, such as willow, pine and spruce. I’ve also found evidence of a possible growth of oak and hickory near the study site during this period.,” Guertin-Pasquier said. “Although it would of course take time for a whole forest to regrow, the findings show that our grandchildren should be able to plant a tree and watch it grow.”

    The fossilized forest found on Bylot Island in Nunavut is between 2.6 and 3 million years old according to estimations based on the presence of extinct species and on paleomagnetic analyses. Paleomagentic analysis involves looking at how the Earth’s magnetic field has affected the magnetic sediment in rocks – like a compass, they turn to follow the magnetic poles. Scientists can use this information to date rocks as the history of the movement of the magnetic poles is relatively well known.

    Wood samples in the ancient forest have been preserved throughout the eons in peat and by permafrost. “We studied the sediments in the forest and discovered pollen that are usually found in climates where the annual average temperature is around 0 degrees Celsius or 32 Fahrenheit,” Guertin-Pasquier said. By comparison, current average conditions on Bylot Island are around -15°C ( 5°F). The samples were taken from few drill holes 10 cm in diameter of one to two metres deep. The harshness of the Arctic winter and the remoteness of the forest mean that scientists have very little opportunity to delve into its secrets. Even during the summer, the Guertin-Pasquier and his colleagues had to endure extreme conditions such as 80 km/h winds. “There is so much mystery that surrounds this forest – for example, how these trees managed to survive the relentless dark of the Arctic winter,” he said, adding that the next steps for this line of research could include looking more closely at other plant remains in order to get a better understanding of what the local flora was.

    This research was financed in part by the Polar Continental Shelf Program, Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada programs. The University of Montreal is officially known as Université de Montréal.

    http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=124232&CultureCode=en

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  2. Pingback: Snowy owls, as far as Bermuda | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Snowy owls invading the USA | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: United States’ most popular birds | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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