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Joining him were La Puma and his colleague Erin Rawls.The group lured each bird to the trap by using a pigeon as bait.
The more young birds born at nesting sites, the farther afield they fly in the winter to find food, said La Puma, of the bird observatory. The birds that come here tend to be younger ones, as they are lower on the social hierarchy and get “pushed” farther south, Weidensaul said.
Then, very gently, they took feather samples for later chemical testing that could reveal where the animal was born, and blood samples to test for levels of toxic pollutants such as mercury and lead. The whole process took less than an hour, then they were set aloft once again.
The rise and fall of snowy owl populations in various locations is tied to numbers of lemmings, said Scott Weidensaul, a naturalist, author, and co-founder of Project SNOWstorm.
Up to 10 snowy owls have been spotted this fall in New Jersey, where most years there are one or zero.
The bird is held by Mike Lanzone, president and CEO of Cellular Tracking Technologies, which made the transmitter to track the bird’s flight. A former math teacher and engineering major, he was hired in 1998, and previously covered environmental issues and New Jersey state government. Four years after hundreds of the majestic birds flew south to Pennsylvania and New Jersey for the winter, they been spotted here in significant numbers once again.
The pair were named Islandbeach (all one word, to make it easier on the computer program that captures the bird data) and Lenape.
This is science, so no cute humanizing nicknames, and certainly no use of the name Hedwig, the snowy owl of the Harry Potter books.That means coastlines, such as the Jersey shore, farmland, and unfortunately airports.“Sadly, they really love airports,” Weidensaul said.The flight patterns of some of the birds can be seen on the group’s website.Though this is a research project, Weidensaul concedes that the bird has star quality, which does not hurt the group’s fundraising efforts.“The birds tend to move around the Arctic and sub-Arctic and nest wherever the lemming population has reached its peak,” Weidensaul said.