In the winter of 2013-2014, when snowy owls from the Arctic began appearing far south of their usual winter homes, scientists took advantage of a rare research opportunity.
An unusually large irruption of snowy owls, seen in huge numbers in eastern Canada, New England, and the mid-Atlantic coast and as far south as Florida, spurred observers to develop new techniques to track and learn more about this Arctic species. One likely hypothesis for their sudden migration into unlikely areas is a population explosion caused by the unusually high lemming numbers the previous summer, which provided more food for hatchlings. Another points to strong southeasterly winds blowing them off course. Using leg bands and small GPS transmitters, scientists followed the movements of specific birds, discovering new facts about a bird not previously well-studied. Markle introduces the birds, the lemmings, and the science in lively, clear prose organized into chapters profusely illustrated with well-captioned photographs. With long experience in explaining the natural world to young readers, she deftly chooses information that will be of particular interest and provides the necessary background. Separate sections explain lemming population booms, differences between male and female owls, tundra, and owl feeding habits. A map shows the travels of several birds, including a “star reporter” named Baltimore.
Appealing design adds further value to this dramatic demonstration of science in progress. (author’s note, sources, glossary, resources, index, photo credits) (Nonfiction. 8-12)