As a biologist you get to meet some cool people and do some cool stuff! I met pilot Bruce King at an Altacal Audubon Society meeting. Knowing I was installing radio transmitters on wintering saw-whet owls with grad student Julie Shaw, he offered to take us up in the air if the owls flew our of the study area- the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve (BCCER). Bruce is a pilot, farmer and photographer, taking pics of our beautiful region. See his website: BruceKingPhotography for some amazing photos.
|Bruce King and his tail-dragger plane-seats 2!|
|Here's Belle before release, note her radio antenna|
emerging from her backpack (under feathers)
Call in the Owl Detection Support Team: Bruce, we need to fly! I was the lucky passenger. Bruce's plane is a Super Cub model, light in weight for lift and maneuverability it provided a rather cozy ride!
|Ready to fly-sitting in the back seat with all my gear|
including a receiver to detect owls.
|Flying up the Big Chico Creek Canyon|
We flew right over the Reserve. You can see the barn, maintenance facilities and ranch house. The barn is where we install the transmitters and our OWL3 banding station is just west (left) of the meadow in the mixed forest.
Having no signal we headed north along the foothills to Red Bluff. I recreated the flight path here, although it is not completely accurate, we covered about 150 miles, flying south along the Sacramento River. We passed over many of the wildlife refuges which looked so beautiful in fall color.
Bruce showed me several eagle nests including one with a bald eagle sitting in it, I suppose a good winter roosting site. We flew over the Butte Sink and saw many large flocks of white-fronted geese, tundra swans, sandhill cranes, smaller flocks of snow geese and many groupings of decoys staged by hunters. And although we never detected an owl it was well worth this exciting adventure. Thanks Bruce for your expertise and generous donation!