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Our owl is named Ramsey, after the city in which it is wintering. It was tagged Jan. 26. You can see a map showing Ramsey’s rather consistent movements in his small territory by going to www.projectsnowstorm.org.
Ramsey is a young male, hatched last summer. He was captured on site by Frank Nicoletti and David Alexander of the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in Duluth. They attached his transmitter, which rides lightly on his back and uses the sun for power.
The transmitter will work for years, sending signals to the project’s Philadelphia headquarters via cellphone networks. When the owl is not in cellphone range (or if his signal is dropped) the device will store signals for transmission whenever. It can store up to 100,000 location entries.
Researchers now will be able to see exactly where and when these nomads move.
If the owls remain available at this date, and if you visit them, be polite. Keep your distance. Don’t disturb the bird. Use binoculars or a spotting scope. Do not bait owls for photos. Absolutely do not feed the owls. Captured owls have been found to be fat and healthy, and don’t need human help. If they can’t find food, they will move.
When and if the owls will return here in such numbers is unknown. Weather changes in the Arctic are beginning to impact lemming populations, among other things. If the base of the food pyramid shrinks, no one is certain what that means for predators at the top.
Lifelong birder Jim Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Join his conversation about birds at www.startribune.com/wingnut.