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Rare Irruption Of Snowy Owls In Maryland Captivates Scientists

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Snowy Owls come south in unpredictable invasions called "irruptions."
Doug Zwick: http://www.flickr.com/photos/42468795@N05/4005631973
Snowy Owls come south in unpredictable invasions called "irruptions."

Bird enthusiasts on Maryland's Eastern Shore and in coastal Delaware have been enjoying what ecologists are calling a once in a lifetime irruption of Snowy Owls. Scientists have launched a project that aims to learn more about this little known species.

When you think of Snowy Owls, the first picture in your mind might be of Harry Potter's pet owl Hedwig, but birders and ecologists on the shore have been seeing the real thing all over the region since just before Thanksgiving.

Tens of thousands of these beautiful but mysterious birds that have migrated south from the Arctic and have been seen everywhere from Minnesota to Assateague Island.

"What's happening this year is of lifetime proportions, it's probably the biggest irruption that most of us will ever see in our lifetime," says David Brinker, an ecologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

And because of how unique this situation is, Brinker and a few of his colleagues have launched Project SNOWstorm, a crowdfunded venture that aims to place solar powered transmitters on a few of the snowy owls to track their movement patterns.

Two owls have been tagged with transmitters so far, and Brinker says the early results have been fascinating.

Brinker says the snowy owls will likely stay in the region until early March.

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