This past week has been a bit slow due to poor weather conditions. There were a couple of days where we were unable to open up the mist nets or had to open late/close early because of the high wind speeds, rain, and snow. We do not operate the mist nets in these conditions because it is unsafe to have the owls, or any bycatch, in the nets, especially if we are getting precipitation due to the possibility of the birds getting hypothermia. The owls safety is our number one priority, always. Since these conditions prevented us from being at full operation this last week, we only were able to catch 64 Northern Saw-whet Owls (NSWO). However, this was enough to push our total number of NSWOs past 300! Our current total for NSWOs is 335.
This week also brought a welcome first for the season: a Long-eared Owl (LEOW)! A few are usually caught per fall season, and Jodi and I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of one. These birds are most noticeable for their “long ears,” which are actually just tufts of feathers. The purpose of having these tufts is to help the owl camouflage when it is roosting during the day or trying to stay hidden from prey. This works by breaking up the shape of the owl, making it look like sticks and branches when it is perched in a tree. We are hoping to catch a couple more of these owls this season!