Snowy owl expert speaks to bird lovers at annual Audubon meeting

MIDDLBURY — The Otter Creek Audubon annual meeting and dinner will be held this year at Middlebury College’s Kirk Alumni Center on Thursday, Nov. 8. Nationally known author and ornithologist Scott Weidensaul will be the featured guest.
Addison County nature enthusiasts were treated to an unusual phenomenon during the winter of 2013-2014: an irruption of Snowy Owls. While these Arctic inhabitants normally migrate into central Canada during the winter months, that year exceptionally large numbers went further south, one even as far south as Florida.
In Addison County at least 24 owls took up residence on the arctic-like snow-covered fields, giving birders up-close looks at this engaging bird. For Weidensaul this irruption was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study the species more closely. To do this, he co-founded Project SNOWStorm.
Since that winter the project has tagged 70 Snowy Owls in 14 states and provinces, fitting them with GPS/GSM transmitters. The data gathered led to unexpected discoveries about the owl’s life history. As the keynote speaker, Weidensaul will share these research results at Otter Creek Audubon’s annual dinner on Nov. 8.
During his 30 years as a licensed bird bander Scott has focused his research on the movements of other species as well. Each fall, Northern Saw-whet Owls are banded by three Pennsylvania research crews under Scott’s direction. That project has banded 11,000 owls, adding significantly to our knowledge of their migration patterns. Another project bands western hummingbirds that are increasingly appearing in the east, well beyond their traditional ranges. And since 2015, Scott’s Critical Connections project uses tiny geolocators to track migration patterns of various birds that nest in Alaska and winter as far south as Northern Argentina and Bolivia.
As the author of over two dozen books, Scott is perhaps best known for “Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds,” which was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in 2000. Most recently, the “Peterson Reference Guide to Owls of North America and the Caribbean” was published in 2015. Scott is currently working on a new book looking at global bird migration and conservation.
In addition to Scott’s presentation, Otter Creek Audubon will be honoring science teacher Amy Clapp with its Silver Feather Award for her outstanding accomplishments in teaching and promoting environmental education at the Salisbury Community School and across the Addison Central School District. Thanks to her years of enthusiastic and skillful teaching, Salisbury students are eagerly learning about birds and the natural world.
Weidensaul’s presentation begins at 7:45 p.m. and is free. Dinner at 6 p.m. is $25, or $20 for those 12 years old and under, and requires a reservation. Contact Sue Rasmussen by Nov. 2 at OCAS, Box 938, Middlebury VT 05753, or call 897-5411. Call also for availability of walk-in dinner reservations.

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