Very interesting report posted on the Massbird list yesterday
from Mass. Audubon's Norm Thompson, who has been banding and
studying Snowy Owls at Boston's Logan Airport since 1981.

It's a long post with a lot of the history of Snowies at Logan
and can be found here
about the 7th post down.

A couple of excerpts of particular interest given some of the
discussion here about the influx of Snowies this year and whether
their location should be kept secret to protect them from stress:

"Prior to my investigations, the general consensus was that the
lack of
prey on the birds' breeding grounds is the primary reason that
snowy owls
come to New England; and that most never make it back to the
arctic. I
found it strange that in years that I captured high numbers of
snowy owls,
most were individuals born that year and in excellent condition.
banded owls returned to the airport years later."

"My study has shown that snowy owls are not coming to New England
because they are in poor condition as the prior literature has
Rather, they are coming here because of a good food supply in the
creating a strong breeding year with more owls to take a nomadic
south. We also know that many owls return to the arctic. We now
know this
because of the satellite transmitters that were placed on those

Banding these snowy owls has also been important as we have seen
a number
of owls return to the airport years later. For instance, one
snowy owl
returned to Logan 16 years after being banded, and it is the
oldest known
wild snowy owl in the world to date. Our 28 years of research has
shown that Logan Airport has the largest known wintering
population of
snowy owls in the northeast. As far as stress to these birds as
part of
our investigations is concerned, I have not seen any
documentation showing
that stress from birders, photographers or researchers impacts
owls or
other raptors. If anyone is aware of any reliable documentation that
indicates otherwise, I'd be interested in reviewing it."