Sunday, October 30, 2011

OWLOWEEN - A night of Ghosts and Owls

One of our most fun and popular evenings during the owl season is Altacal's OWLOWEEN field trip where we play tricks, provide treats and teach people about our Northern Saw-whet Owl migration monitoring study. Here's how it went last night. After Steve King picked up 10 guests to bring to the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve - our banding site OWL2, we tried to conjure up some of our resident owls, great horned, western screech, pygmy and even gave a few attempts for barn, barred and spotted. Our witchcraft was limited we had responses from two pygmy owls and later heard a chirping Northern saw-whet owl. We walked through the twilight to the Lucas cemetery, where I told the story of the raven-haired beauty, Mona Mora Lucas whose body was found beheaded near our banding station. Every year we hear the sad cries and moans of her unsettled spirit- her head has never been found.

We ended up at the banding station to meet Raina and Colleen and watch the banding and release process. On our way to check the nets, we did see Mona's head and heard her tortured cries. Haunted spirits often hang out together, and goblins, ghosts and ghouls appeared around every tree, phantoms in the night.

Then - the owls descended! We brought to the station our first owl, then a second and third. Chirps, toots and wails were heard throughout the night. Were our guests excited about these petite, enigmatic, nocturnal predators? A picture says a thousand words. Steve King captured the group's awe in this last photo. Trish, who is holding one of the owls just before we release her, is truly taken as she touches her heart in complete amazement. The owl season has been incredible this year, with a total of 8 captured this night and 66 owls for the season as of this post.

Thanks to Steve and Raina King, Colleen Martin and JoAnna Arroyo for helping to make another great OWLOWEEN outing!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What is a OWL BIG NIGHT!?

Well truly it depends on your location, because other stations have posted some incredible numbers (I will post about these later). For us at the BCCER we just had a BIG owl night on October 25, when a whopping 9 saw-whets were banded and released. Nice work Raina and Steve (with Steve's mom and saw-whet in photo below- the three Kings :)
This wasn't the biggest BIG night for us though - previous happenings occurred during our first year in 2005, on October 29th when 10 owls were captured and and again on November 4th 2007 when we banded 12 new owls and had 2 recaptures. Big owl nights are very exciting for us as it holds promise of a good year for owls. We always speculate on the event though, and typically fall to weather conditions like a high pressure system, waning-to-no-moon,and clear skies. These evenings are usually beautiful for star-gazing too and often accompanied by sounds of migrating geese and swans.
It could also be timing; being out on the right night when the the owls are flying through or have stopped on the Reserve to rest. But we can't know this unless we are out every night-all night during the migration period October 15-November 15. As of October 25th we are up to 34 owls for the season!
Following are the results:

Date: October 25, 2011
Weather clear: skies, gusty winds, 59*F
Net hours: 22.5
Banders/guests: Raina and Steve King, guests Kurt Geiger and children Maddie and Carter
Owls captured: 9 NSWO
Owls detected: NSWO throughout the night after the first hour

Thanks Steve King for photos.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Saw-whet Owl Season in Full Swing!

Saw-whet owl season is off to a great start with our first bird captured on Sept. 28. After 2 more attempts of nothing, the owls began to fly; as of October 22 we are up to 22 owls. Compare this to our 2009 season when we had 23 owls the entire season!

Thank you Steve King for this saw-whet photo! She can be adopted. Go to the Adopt An Owl tab for more details.

Here are the 2011 results so far:
9/28 = 1 AHY/F
10/11 = 0 owls captured
10/15 = 0 owls captured
10/17 = 2 owls captured: SY/M, HY/F
10/18 = 4 owls captured: HY/F, 2 AHY/F, HY/M
10/20 = 4 owls captured: 3 AHY/F, HY/M
10/21 = 7 owls captured: 3 AHY/F, 2 HY/F, HY/U, AHY/U
10/22 = 4 owls captured: HY/U, 3 AHY/F

HY = hatching year bird, a bird hatched in 2011
AHY = After hatch year, a bird hatched before 2011

This year so far we have a 50/50 ratio of adults to hatching year birds. We like to see a high proportion of hatching year birds which indicates a high reproductive year for the saw-whets. We will see what the rest of the season brings.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

First Banding Results Fall 2011!!!

We netted our very first saw-whet owl on our first attempt this early season! Although we have been out on September 29th before, October 2nd is our first capture. Go here to see previous results. We did not hear any saw-whets vocalizing so we were very surprised to have one in our 3rd net run as we were getting ready to close. We also had a calling W. screech owl (female) and male great horned owl. There were lots of praying mantis on the nets and many crickets calling. Perhaps more food items for the rodent loving saw-whets- or at least their prey. here are the results from tonight:

Date: September 29, 2011
Weather: calm, clear, 75*F, new moon
Net Hours: 10
Banders: Garcia, R and S King, J. Arroyo helped- thanks!
Captures: 1 AHY/F N. Saw-whet Owl, 1 pallid bat

Let's hope for a great year in 2011!