Snowy Owl Rescue!

Today was the first day in a long time I didn’t have anything pressing to do, so Danika and I packed up the kids and planned a full day of birding, mostly looking for Crossbills in Western Albany County.  We had stopped at Dunkin Donuts to get some ‘supplies’, when my cell phone rang.  It was a call from a former co-worker and someone who volunteers at the USS Slater in downtown Albany, Mike Collins.  He told me there was a Snowy Owl “in the water”.  I pressed him for more details, thinking he had a Ring-billed Gull.  His description seemed to fit and he told me that the local Peregrine Falcons were harassing the bird constantly.  I told him I would check it out.
 
He called me back a few minutes later to say that the Albany PD had come down and done nothing and a call to DEC went unanswered.  They (at the Slater) had called Rensselaer County Animal Control and were awaiting a call back.  He also told me the bird seemed to be ‘drifting’ in the water, not a good sign I thought.
 snow-close-up
I arrived at the small park on the Rensselaer side of the river, but was unable to locate the bird (I could see a white blob as we drove over the Dunn).  Mike called me back to say the bird had stopped moving, and with that news my heart sank.  However an adult Peregrine Falcon went by at that time and started bombing an area of shoreline I couldn’t see.  So I figured the Owl was still alive.
 
We decided to change locations and headed over to the Slater parking lot (next to the U-Haul building in Albany).  Once there, I could clearly make out via binoculars and scope that this was indeed a Snowy Owl, a heavily streaked youngster.  However the bird looked awful, wings drooping and a general disheveled look.  The Peregrine Falcons constantly bombed it and the Owl reacted with each pass, so I was able to confirm the bird was alive.  At this point I called Corey Finger, who gave me Rich Guthrie’s  cell phone number.  I talked to Rich who passed the word to see what we could do to help the bird and then he headed up to check the bird out.  A few moments later we could see the Animal control officer on the Rensselaer side, whom we tried to flag down to give a clue as to where the bird was (at this point the Owl had climbed up the shoreline a bit into some bushes).  But he seemed oblivious.

snow-long
 About half and hour later, Rich arrived and confirmed that the bird did not look well.  He headed across to the Renssealer side to see if he could help, while Danika and I stayed on the Albany side an acted as spotters.  After about another half an hour of guiding Rich and the Animal control officer up and down the river bank and one last gasp escape attempt by the Owl (it tried to run away, not fly) Rich was able to literally reach down and pick the Owl up, where it was taken to the Animal control van and the plan was to get it to a rehabilitator as soon as possible.
 OWL In Arms
Rich reported that the bird was, as guessed emaciated.  I don’t think the bird would have survived much longer, but now at least it has a chance.

In addition to the Owl and Peregrine Falcons, there was also a Merlin, Mallards, Ring-billed and Great Black Backed Gulls.
 
I did end up spending the rest of the day birding and will have a seperate report later.

I also want to say a special thanks to Mike Collins and Rich Ireland from the USS Slater, without their efforts, this bird was sure to perish.

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10 responses to “Snowy Owl Rescue!

  1. I am glad to hear the Owl survived, I hope it continues to recuperate and get well enough to get back out into the wild. Both Rich and I figured that something needed to be done to help the owl out, especially since it was such a cold day. Thanks for your help Will.

  2. No thank you Mike. While it is a sad fact that many of these northern owls are often starving and seriously weakened by the time they reach our area, you guys went above and beyond what I think most people would have done. As such the Owl may have a chance to survive, although it is not guranteed. If it does survive one day to return to its arctic haunts, it will have one hell of a story to tell!

  3. Hi,

    Mike Collins is my husband’s cousin and we are very proud of him! Thanks so much for caring about this Snowy Owl. I am most anxious to hear how the owl is doing and would appreciate more information. (I am a birder from SE AZ).

    Great work!

  4. Good For You. You responded quickly, called in the calvary and the owl may survive (fingers crossed.) I have heard of may owls this fall that are starving by the time they reach us.

  5. I saw an owl (that looked exactly like the one above) TODAY in downtown Albany! It was on a third floor window sill of the building on the corner of Broadway and State Street. There were several on lookers, one I over heard mention that this owl was also being harrassed by some crows and caught the attention of passers by. They said the Times Union and a news crew were there too.

    Never been to your site. Nice job. thanks.

    • Rich,

      Yes what you saw was indeed a Snowy Owl, but not the one plucked out of the Hudson River. This bird seems to have spent the last week or so on the State Capitol and moved further down state street to a less scenic and more obvious location. I tried after I got out of work (around 4:30pm and i work on Broadway) to find it, but it had moved. But I’ll try again tomorrow!

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