LISTEN: Meet some of the Alaska owls that live in your backyard

Archimedes, an education animal cared for by biologist Ginamaria Smith, was live on Zoom Jan. 31, 2021, as the featured guests of the Eagle River Nature Center’s program “Alaska’s Superb Owls.”

One dark December morning, as I headed out with my dog for some exercise, I met a young man carrying an aluminum ladder. Since it was nearly Christmas, I asked if he was decorating a random tree to surprise and delight winter hikers.

Not quite — he had just cleaned out an owl box of its annual detritus in preparation for a potential new dweller.

It was Andrew Fisher, an owl enthusiast supporting a project at the Eagle River Nature Center, where he and other volunteers have established more than 20 owl boxes. They have a few years of research under their belts, and on this week’s segment, he told us more about how it’s going.

Colin Tyler, professional wildlife photographer and assistant manager at the Eagle River Nature Center also joined to share some of his owl images with us on this page.

And an unusual guest: An owl. Named Archimedes, he’s an education animal with an Alaska caretaker, Ginamaria Smith. She’s cared for him, with the necessary permits, for 15 years after falling from a nest at two weeks of age.

And a final guest joined us from the Owl Research Institute in Montana: Director and founder biologist Denver Holt talked a bit about his 30 years of snowy owl research on the North Slope, as well as his understanding — after all these years — of why humans are so interested in owls. Listen for a hooting good time.

HOST: Kathleen McCoy

GUESTS:

  • Andrew Fisher, biologist, owl enthusiast and volunteer researcher
  • Ginamaria Smith, biologist, owl enthusiast, caretaker of Archimedes
  • Archimedes, Great Horned Owl, education animal
  • Colin Tyler Bogucki, professional photographer, owl enthusiast, Eagle River Nature Center assistant manager
  • Denver Holt, 30-year Snowy Owl researcher on the North Slope, founder Owl Research Institute in Montana

LINKS:

  • The World of Saw Whet Owls, by Andrew Fisher, ERNC You Tube Channel
  • Eagle River Nature Center website (archived wildlife talks)
  • Owls in Alaska Native culture, Alutiiq Museum, webpage
  • Long-eared Owl nest live cam, explore.org website
  • Alaska’s Owls, Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game, all about owls, website
  • Calls of Alaska’s owls, 90 second recordings of 8 of Alaska’s 10 owls, AK Dept of F&G webpage
  • Owl Research Institute, Missoula, Montana, home of many long-term owl research projects website
  • Research paper on Short Eared Owls status and conservation priorities, by Travis Booms, Ak Dept of Fish & Game biologist, PDF
  • Research paper on seasonal movement via satellite telemetry of Short Eared Owls, Travis Booms co-author, PDF
  • Colin Tyler Photography, specifically his owl images, webpage
  • J.Hunter photo safari, watch a 13-min video as J. Hunter listens and then finds a juvenile and an adult Great Horned Owl. You Tube video on J. Hunter Photography website
  • Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, details on how to build an owl house
  • Nest Watch, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, details on all kinds of birds nests website
  • Bird Note with Denver Holt, “People are drawn to owls,” 2 min story, webpage
  • Bird Note: a selection of 2-minute owl information stories, webpage
  • Snowy Owl in Central Park, Manhattan Bird Alert tweet, webpage