Owl News Audubon Audubon in Action How a Former Phoenix Landfill Became Home for Displaced Burrowing Owls Thanks to a crowdsourced protection effort led by Audubon Arizona, the owls are once again thriving. By Dora Chi August 10, 2016 For original article please go to: audubon.org The story of how the Burrowing Owls lost their home is all too familiar: As manufacturing industries took off after World War II and construction machinery plowed through Phoenix, Arizona, the arid landscape transformed into one of America’s fastest growing cities. The owls’ habitats and nests—mammal-dug holes on dirt stretches—vanished as development projects arose in their place. But now the owls are back. Today, on an Arizona landfill transformed into 600 acres of protected land, visitors can stroll alongside more than 100 Burrowing Owls as they eat, breed, and bob their heads “howdy” across the earthen sprawl of the Rio Salado Restoration Habitat. Since 2013, owls have been rescued and relocated here through the Downtown Owls project, a collaboration between Audubon Arizona, the Wild at Heart raptor sanctuary, and the City of Phoenix, with funding from a Toyota TogetherGreen grant. The goal of the project is to protect the species by getting citizens—no matter their scientific experience—to build makeshift owl burrows and map owl sightings through a phone app. As the owls started to make the landfill their new home, finding a way to track them and their offspring became important. Work on the app began in 2014, when Cathy Wise, project leader and Audubon Arizona’s education director, teamed up with GIS specialist Connor Bailey to devise a way to let volunteers easily map their owl sightings on Rio Salado. Since then, armed with a smartphone or a tablet, volunteers have been observing and mapping the rescued owls across five safe sites, designated by criteria such as openness and lack of large vegetation to obscure predators. Wise estimates around 50 people, including regular volunteers, have contributed data. Age is no hindrance: Classes from three schools, including an Advanced Placement biology class, have gone on Downtown Owl field trips during which students learned to identify the owls and mark sightings on the app. As Downtown Owls celebrates three years of progress—with the hundredth rescued owl released this past April and spring cameras documenting at least nine owlets—it feels like ripe time for the next step.
Snowy Owl Irruption Year Signifies Alternate Climate Changes Summarized from smithsonian.com February 2018 By Kat Eschner As some of you may know, winter 2017-2018 has proven to be a snowy owl irruption year. This means that a large portion of the snowy owls that are hatched in the Arctic make their way through North America from the Midwest of the United States all the way through Texas. It is highly unusal for bird lovers to see these large, white, mysterious birds in most of the parts of the country. However, just because there have been many snowy sightings this winter, does not mean that the birds are not in danger. As it is with most of our environmental problems of today, the snowy owl populations largely depend on a food sourse. Their food sourse is the lemming rodent of the Arctic, both brown and white lemmings. Every few years, the conditions in the Arctic (unusually cold) make it possible for the lemmings to huddle down in the soft snow and make a lot of baby lemmings. Snowy owls, Artic foxes, and Arctic wolves also depend on a large lemming population. The intersting thing that happens in irruption years, is that when there are so many lemmings, more snowy owls are hatched and there is then a crowding of predators. The healthy owls make the journey to (sometimes) warmer climes down south to get some space and feed off of other prey such as mice. The mysterious part of the migration patters is that it is very difficult to track an owl unless there is a device attacted to it just like Project SNOWstorm devises. Researchers have previously thought that there are 300,000 snowy owls and this year the numbers have dropped to a guestimate of only 30,000. (Eugene Potapov and Richard Sale). The reason for this decline in population after an irruption year has to do with the fact that the birds that leave the Arctic do put themselves in a lot of danger. The Arctic does not train young owls for automobiles, airports, or other human adaptations. Owls get hit, starve, and killed. Scientists of course continute to study the mysterious and hard to trace snowy owl. If you are ever in the vicinity of a bird that looks like it needs help please call your local Raptor Centor and have them come out and handle the owl. For the full article please refer to smithsonian.com 17