On Monday, January 29, Norman Smith (director at Blue Hills Trailside Museum) carefully captured a snowy owl at Logan Airport (for the safety of the owl and the planes). The next day, he released it on Duxbury Beach.
Snowy owls are attracted to Logan because the landscape resembles the Arctic tundra and there are plenty of rodents and waterfowl to eat. This was the 26th snowy owl he has relocated from Logan this winter.
After safely capturing it, he brought it back to Trailside to measure, weigh, and band it. The following day, he fed the owl then safely puts it in the car and heads to Duxbury Beach to release it.
To drive on Duxbury Beach you need a permit. If you do come, please read the signs and stay off the dunes for the safety of the beach and wildlife.
Once at a good spot, Norman retrieves the owl. He has been doing this for more than 25 years and knows the best way to handle the owl. Before letting him go, Norman shared a few words about the owl, including that it’s a second year bird (probably born in June 2017). You can tell by its uniform feathers and no sign of molt.
Once released the owl doesn’t go far. Can you see him? He’s in the center at the edge of the beach just before the water.
You don’t have to brave the wind and cold to see a snowy owl up close. At Blue Hills Trailside Museum in Milton, there are 2 snowy owls in the wildlife exhibit—they have been injured and wouldn’t survive in the wild.
In case you haven’t heard, this is the winter of snowy owls. And no one knows this better than Norman Smith, snowy owl expert and sanctuary directory of Mass Audubon’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum in Milton.
Before Smith releases the owls, he attaches a tiny tracking transmitter. These transmitters send data such as location, temperature, and altitude, enabling researchers to learn more snowy owl behavior.
The first snowy owl sighting in Massachusetts this season was on November 17, 2013. Since then, Smith has captured and relocated 87 snowy owls (70 of those from Logan). Compare that to the 8 he captured last year and a total of 53 during the 2011-2012 winter.
The numbers will only grow as snowy owls usually stick around until early April. Some have been known to linger; the latest date recorded was July 7.
Want to be a part of the snowy owl action this season? Here’s how you can help: