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!

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