Monday, January 17, 2011

A Winter Sampling of Owls

One of our monitoring goals is to sample the NSWO use of CSU Chico's reserves (equate similar habitats in our area) during the winter. This past weekend, four of us went to the Butte Creek Ecological Preserve (BCEP), located off of Honey Run Road- of off the Skyway. The preserve habitat is very disturbed because the creek was heavily mined. Mine tailings comprise the uplands but on those grow chaparral and mixed hardwood/conifer (oak/grey pine) species. Riparian scrub and forest line Butte Creek. The elevation only about 330' elevation, all and all quite different than the BCCER site. But, we know owls use this preserve based on my previous banding efforts as well as an actual visual. Click the photo above left to see an aerial view of our net array.
This picture below shows the actual lane where we erect our mist nets at the BCEP
On Friday January 14, 2010, we set up just after sunset to the trilling call of a Western Screech Owl. We began to hear many saw-whet vocalizations; toots, twitters, wails and chirps, and knew it would be a good night. Indeed! In just 2.5 hours we captured and banded 5 NSWO, more than we had in any previous winter. The were all owls hatched last year, and all female. The high number of wintering owls does make sense because we had such a great fall season (92 owls!) in 2010. So, the BCEP and proximate area, is providing good prey and winter habitat for the young owls. To see more about the Preserve, hiking trails and birding, click here.

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