I recently had the pleasure of going birding with a group of students from Windham Middle School to look for a Snowy Owl. I’ve had the pleasure of working with this group before. Their teacher, Ryan Rumsey, has been working with Maine Audubon and teaching his students to bird for a couple years now. Incorporating birds and birding into a number of activities, the students have been actively participating in Project Feederwatch and using eBird to document the birds that visit the feeders outside their classroom.
You can follow their sightings, including a summary of our Snowy Owl trip, at their blog: http://windhamfeederwatch.blogspot.com
One way we help students on these trips is by sharing the resources and tools that Maine Audubon has available. With a couple Swarovski spotting scopes, the kids were able to get excellent views of the distant Snowy Owl and even ‘digiscope’ (use a camera aimed through the scope) to take pictures of the owl.
The class has been doing a fundraiser so they can purchase their own scope and are now only about $225 away! Please consider donating here.
Perhaps the coolest part of this trip was that it was a very special Snowy Owl that we went to see. This owl is part of Project Snowstorm and has been fitted with a transmitter so that its movements can be tracked.
It was relocated from the Brunswick Executive Airport (giving it the name “Brunswick”) to the Rachel Carson NWR on January 13, 2016. Since then it has been roaming the coastline from Kennebunkport to Ogunquit, but it is mostly seen around Wells. You can follow her movements (and also consider donating to Project Snowstorm) here:
For the weeks, months and hopefully years to come the students will be able to “follow” this Snowy Owl around thanks to Project Snowstorm. It’s already quite amazing to see the area “Brunswick” has covered!
Below you can a snapshot from Project Snowstorm confirming our bird was “Brunswick.”
I also have to give these students a ton of credit for doing this during their February vacation week! Rather than sleeping in, watching tv or doing whatever teenagers do, these kids were up before dawn exploring nature in below zero temperatures. (It was a balmy 10ºF when we finally found the owl.) Way to go, Mr. Rumsey’s class!
Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.