Owl update: October 21 – 26

The night of the 21st was windy and extra no good with a southwest wind.  Not only is the southwest wind non-conducive to owl movement, it exposes my nets particularly well, rendering them less effective.  Regardless, 4 saw whets flew into the nets anyway!  Below is a noble cutie-pie.

Can you feel the autumn ambiance?

The night of the 22nd was a special day for me because it was the eve of my birthday!  Members of MSRW stopped by and we celebrated with weenies and chestnuts roasted over the fire and homemade birthday cake!  I was gifted with a wonderful b-day barred owl card as well as some extra firewood.  Thank you everyone for the occasion.  This night I caught 7 saw whets before being greeted by the beautiful dawn.

Richard Couse, Executive Director, makes up for the lack of candles by holding a faintly smoldering twig over the cake.

On an aside, with this work I play with plenty of owls, which is wholeheartedly enriching in itself, but the other wonderful aspect is watching the night unfold and moon and stars crest over the sky.  I walk several miles a night to check nets and this is a calming activity to reflect on life while listening to Scandinavian folk metal.  It’s getting colder so I watch the frost accumulate over moss and puddles freeze.   Below are photos from the morning of the 24th.

Moonlight over lake
This sunrise deserves to be on a cereal box.

The night of the 23rd was quite productive with 8 brand-spanking-new owls (that is to say they were all unbanded).  The night of the 24th was our last night of clear weather conditions, but even so, following a brief push of 4 owls in the early evening, movement seemed to stop after 1 am.  Perhaps the birds sensed the weather process coming in and so have hunkered down to wait it out.

What a lucky owl to get to model in front of my favorite handkerchief!

It is now the 26th and we’ll be in for some iffy weather the coming days.  I opened the nets for four hours last night, and wasn’t surprised no body was moving in the dense fog.

I am happy to announce we have broken the 100-owl mark.  As of tonight we stand at 100 northern saw whet owls, 2 barred owls, and one long-eared owl.  Stay tuned for a report of our NSWO foreign retraps.  I won’t spoil anything but one bird was banded far far away, so get HYPED.

Historically, these are low numbers for the saw whets.  Some stations in Ontario and Quebec provinces have also reported low owl numbers, with a few stations doing very well.  Interestingly, I’m still seeing some hatch year birds mixed in with adults – I would have expected the youngin’s to be in lower supply given it’s late season and they tend to migrate in advance.  As the season comes to a close, more owls will trickle in and hopefully grant us a better idea of what’s going on.  It could be the adults had a poor reproductive year (there’s been some anecdotal evidence of low small mammal populations, particularly red vole, which are integral to fuel good saw whet breeding effort in the north); or, in the face of ongoing unfavorable weather, owls have re-routed or could still be delayed.

Until next time,


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