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It's owl time again...

Of course, it is often owl-time around here these days, so what I mean specifically is, it's saw-whet owl-banding time!

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I have been signed up to do Weds this year, but in fact, I got rained out of the first three sessions. The weather this fall has been rough on the banding -- you can't put up the nets in rain or high winds, and there's been a lot of that. So the owl total is very much down this year from last. In part, that is somewhat expected -- boom years are often followed by bust years, and the owl population (so far) seems to run on a 4-year cycle (although the boom last year was unexpected, as that was the 3rd year). (One theory is that the boom/bust population cycles are linked to prey population cycles up north.)

So this may just be a natural "bust" year. Or, the WEIRD WEATHER may be affecting things -- owls getting started later? Who knows? (There's a theory that they don't fly in bad weather anyway. Unlike songbirds, the saw-whet migratory habits seem a bit more desultory. Rather than making one big push south with brief stops to refuel, migrant owls will often "stay over" for several days at intermediate points, and we've had evidence of owls coming to one banding station, and then departing and flying northwest to be caught at another station, which on the face of it would seem counter-productive, but who knows what's going on in their little heads?)

Anyway, I got to go last night, and while we only had 3 owls, that still gave me some nice owl-time to make up for none so far this year.

In other Nature News, I also got to hear wild coyotes for the first time last night! We heard them as we were departing on the first net-run at 7:30, and they sounded quite close by (possibly in some fields on the other side of the hill where the nets are, which are also part of this Audubon reserve). The second set of nets is pretty near those fields, so when that run produced no owls, we wandered up to the top of the hill where the forest opens out to land that overlooks the fields, and tried howling. But either what we'd heard were some rallying howls before the coyotes departed on their coyote business, or else they were all sitting there thinking, "is that supposed to fool us? pssh."

Plus we heard some wild owls. One was definitely a great horned. The other sounded like a cross between a barred owl and a great horned... so I'm going with great horned. (That is, the barred owl's call is a longer phrase, and we were only hearing the first few notes of it -- about the same number of notes you hear in a great horned's call.)

All three of our owls last night were VERY FEISTY, with the beak-clacking and the talons and so forth. I got to release all three of them. One sat on my arm for a bit, and did that fun head-bobbing thing before she decided to fly away. One was off like a shot. One kind of laid down in the crook of my arm for a couple of minutes before gathering herself to take off.

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Tonight is "friends and family night", so I'm going back. We are just hoping like hell any owls show up. There was a 4th owl last night who flapped her way out of the net before we could get to her, so we're hoping she sticks around and gets in the net again tonight.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
chelidon
Nov. 3rd, 2011 08:56 pm (UTC)
Oh, awesome. I love listening to the owls here at night.
jenlev
Nov. 3rd, 2011 10:07 pm (UTC)
Fabulous! I'm so glad you're getting to do all of this. Thank you for posting the photos, looking forward to more photos and more stories! ::::massive hugs::::
leelastarsky
Nov. 4th, 2011 01:57 pm (UTC)
So, so gorgeous! :D
wadjet_theperv
Nov. 5th, 2011 05:14 pm (UTC)
These guys are way too cute :) We sometimes have barn owls around here and the occasional tawny. I love to hear them and see them hunt. You're so lucky!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )