Arlington, the Snowy Owl


On January 4, 2018, a snowy owl in southern Wisconsin became famous. Madison Audubon caught, banded, and outfitted this bird with a GPS transmitter that allows scientists at Project SNOWstorm -- and the public -- to track where he moves and better understand snowy owl ecology. We named him Arlington, after the nearby village. The cost of the transmitter was $3,000, and was funded by many generous MAS donors.

Sadly, on April 29, Arlington was found dead on the side of a country road in central Minnesota, presumably struck by a passing vehicle. He was grounded during the April snowstorms, when he would have otherwise been well on his way to northern Canada by that time.


Learn more about Arlington and his story

Meet Arlington. Photo by David Rihn

Meet Arlington. Photo by David Rihn

See Arlington's travels on Project SNOWstorm's website

See where Arlington moved in southern Wisconsin and central Minnesota between January 4 and April 29, 2018. Over 2,700 data points were collected from Arlington's transmitter since January 4, which are invaluable to snowy owl research.

"A snowy owl who almost made it back home," May 17, 2018 news update

“We were fortunate to have Arlington in our lives," said Susan Foote-Martin, resident co-manager at Goose Pond Sanctuary. Arlington will be missed by his Madison Audubon family, followers at the UW Arlington Agricultural Research Station, local residents, and Project SNOWstorm volunteers, and followers.

"A Snowy Owl Named Arlington," January 12, 2018 Friday Feathered Feature

"This winter is shaping up to be a great snowy owl irruption year. Ryan Brady with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources estimated there are at least 225 snowy owls in Wisconsin this winter. In a typical year, Wisconsin sees a couple dozen snowy owls, so finding ourselves in a snowy flurry is just delightful!"

"Snowy Owl" December 15, 2017 Friday Feathered Feature

"Out here on the sanctuary, our favorite sign that winter is finally on its way are the first sightings of snowy owls! Even before our first snow flurries, we had a flurry of snowy owl activity with two confirmed owls in multiple sightings. Though we don’t see them every year, this year seems to be promising for snowy owl sightings in our area."


Photo by Monica Hall

Photo by Monica Hall

"White Owl Flies Into and Out of the Field"

Coming down out of the freezing sky
with its depths of light,
like an angel, or a Buddha with wings,
it was beautiful, and accurate,
striking the snow and whatever was there
with a force that left the imprint
of the tips of its wings — five feet apart —
and the grabbing thrust of its feet,
and the indentation of what had been running
through the white valleys of the snow —
and then it rose, gracefully,
and flew back to the frozen marshes
to lurk there, like a little lighthouse,
in the blue shadows —
so I thought:
maybe death isn’t darkness, after all,
but so much light wrapping itself around us —
as soft as feathers —
that we are instantly weary of looking, and looking,
and shut our eyes, not without amazement,
and let ourselves be carried,
as through the translucence of mica,
to the river that is without the least dapple or shadow,
that is nothing but light — scalding, aortal light —
in which we are washed and washed
out of our bones.

-Mary Oliver


BANNER PHOTO: Arlington's eyes radiate intensity. Photo by David Rihn