Sunday, July 22, 2012

Flammulated Owl Night at Lake Davis

Mid-July I took fellow owl researcher Julie Shaw to check out a Flammulated Owl (Otus flammeolus) project that is occurring on the Plumas National Forest. I work on the Plumas, conducting Northern Goshawk and Spotted Owl surveys (and other species surveys), but not near Lake Davis. David Arsenault, founder of American Valley Environmental and Plumas Audubon Society (PAS) President, received funding from the US Forest Service (Beckworth) to conduct Flammulated Owl (FLOW) nesting surveys around Lake Davis where FLOW numbers are known to be high. He will examine FLOW populations in different FS management areas including fuel reduced and harvested stands. For more about this exciting and necessary project go here. David invited us to join him and his crew for an evening of FLOW banding. We were targeting the adults in one known nest. They found a nesting pair in a small woodpecker cavity (probably a white-headed woodpecker) in the large snag in the middle of this pic. This is what nesting FLOW habitat looks like.
Flammulated Owl habitat and nest cavity
You can also see the cavity here. David's crew is setting up mist nets proximate to the nest. They had watched the pair's flight path and knew that there were 3 eggs the cavity (2-4 is average).  They knew the birds would fly back and forth with moths, beetles and other insects - to feed the nestlings.
Setting nets in front of the nest snag
And we were successful!  Although the female bounced off the net and was too wise that night to be captured (she was captured and banded later). The male was captured 2x. See Julie taking out the male FLOW from the net.

Julie extracting male Flammulated Owl
Once extracted,  we weighed the male - a whopping 51 grams.  Our small male Saw-whets weigh 73 grams.  The one N. Pygmy Owl that I banded weighed 61 grams. These Flammulateds are tiny predators!  
Colin weighing FLOW - 51 grams, David taking data
Male FLOW - note the rusty/rufous color on the owl, giving the
species its ' name: flame or of a reddish color.
And I got to release my first-in-the-hand, Flammulated Owl!  We took down the nets and left the owls to their nocturnal foraging. Thanks David and crew, we look forward to hearing more of your study results.
Happy me!