Every season for the Snow Goose Festival we offer our Northern Saw-whet Owl banding and survey. It is always a sell out and this year was no different. The late January date (26) also allows us to see if we continue to have wintering saw-whets on the Reserve. We always start off with an owl prowl to survey the other species in the area. This year we had the resident pair of Great Horned Owls, putting on a nice vocal show of dueting.
As in most raptors the female is bigger than the male, but in the owls, the female has a higher pitched voice, making a nice auditory duet of high (female) and low (male) responses. I love this picture from the web showing the size difference, although these birds are much lighter in color than the Reserve pair. We also had a Western Screech Owl calling in the fog, very close over our heads with only nearby trees visible - very dramatic! Saw-whets were calling vocalizations that we describe as banshee wails, chitters and squirrel chirps. It was a very active night for our participants ears!
Our most exciting moment though was on the very last net run of the night - when two Saw-whet owls (seen in this pic held by me and Raina) flew into the nets, one right in front of our guests. We were all very awed as usual by the beauty of the little predators, and ended the night knowing that indeed, two new owls (previously unbanded) were wintering on the Reserve. Of course it is unknown to us if these owls have been here since fall migration and avoided the nets, or came in later, after our migration station had closed for the season. Another mystery!
Thank you Steve and Raina King and Nancy Nelson for helping with another successful owl adventure!