Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dorothy Davis Owl Painting - SOLD!

Remember this darling Saw-whet Owl?  Artist Dorthy Davis donated her original painting to raise funds for our project. The curious owl was up for bid at the Snow Goose Festival's silent auction resulting in great success. Dorothy sold her very first painting, a bidder became a happy owner of a unique piece of local art,  and we received a generous donation to help support Altacal's Saw-whet Owl monitoring project.

I love a WIN, WIN, WIN!  Thank you Dorothy!!

Snow Goose Festival Owls!

Since 1999 we have conducted an Owl Monitoring and Banding field trip as a Snow Goose Festival event, occurring in late January.  It is a  perfect time to sample the area for wintering Saw-whets. This year we ran two different sites concurrently to see where the owls were.  My team, Steve, Jo, Sheila and Maureen, went to Butte Creek Ecological Preserve. Maureen and Steve took the group on an owl prowl to listen for Pygmy, Great Horned, Western Screech and Barn Owl.  Not a toot, hoot or screech was to be heard!  Meanwhile Jo, Sheila and I had set up nets for Saw-whets. While we waited, we heard a dueting pair of Great Horned owls across the creek. Steve brought the guests to our station and after lots of conversation and four empty net runs, a Western Screech Owl waited for us in the net. Our group was very happy!
Western Screech Owl: here I am measuring the owl's tail length to help determine its
gender- which I could not. The screech owls tend to be very calm during handling.
Steve King Photo

SGF group with Western Screech Owl, BCEP. Steve King Photo

Meanwhile up at the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve (BCCER), Mike, Raina,Nancy and Julie were running the OWL3 site, our typical fall migration station.  Their guests got a good listen to a dueting pair of Great Horned Owls, but there were no owls in the net.  As luck - or the odds of getting a Saw-whet during SGF-would sometimes have it - the team finally got one, on the last net run. Unfortunately all the guests had gone, with an invitation to return next fall during our busy season.  
A temporarily upside-down Northern Saw-whet Owl. The owl is laying
gently against the banders palm in the "bander's grip," a hold that safely
secures the bird. The bander is checking the molt on this bird. 

Here she is - a bird that was previously banded during migration in November 2012. Our guests enjoyed the evening, stories and facts and mysteries about owls. For us, any information adds to our knowledge of Saw-whets.  At BCEP no owls were detected - are they not wintering there this year? At BCCER at least one Saw-whet was wintering and has used the Reserve habitats for 2 months since she was captured. But the questions continue. Where did our 119 fall migrants captured during the fall go? Could our lack of detections be related to the moon phase? More on the moons influence and owl captures to come.........

Monday, January 14, 2013


Recently I had the privilege to help Marilyn Gamette, director of the Bidwell  Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (BWRC), age and sex a saw-whet owl.  The owl was found stunned in the road by a couple who saw her, stopped, and picked her up. They wrapped her in a towel and took her to BWRC.  Marilyn knew the owl had a head trauma (likely hit by a car) because one of her pupils was very slow to respond.

Note a slight unevenness in the owl's pupils,
her right pupil larger than then her left.
After 1 and 1/2 months of rehabilitation, her pupils responded equally.  Marilyn said the owl had no problem eating a couple of mice a day, and at a hefty 108 grams, she was fit to fly.  We determined by her feather pattern that she had hatched in the summer of 2012. Marilyn will release her in the Pine Creek Unit where there is abundant dense vegetation for roosting and plenty of prey for the winter. 

Marilyn Gamette, BWRC's Director, and rehabilitated saw-whet owl
The kindness of the rescuers and Marilyn's expertise gave a second chance to this saw-whet owl. Bidwell Wildlife Rehab treats and releases hundreds of wildlife a year supported mostly through the generosity of private donations.  Thank you owl rescuers and BWRC!  Check out this darling video of a Saw-whet Owl being released.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

ADORABLE OWL PAINTING BY A LOCAL ARTIST- A SNEAK PEAK! Come see it for real at the Snow Goose Festival, 2013!

I hope you plan to attend some of the incredible field outings and events at Chico's own Snow Goose Festival (SGF), January 24-27, 2013. Now in its 14th year, the festival was designed to celebrate our incredible valley habitat, an invaluable portion of the Pacific Flyway to geese, swans, ducks, shorebirds, and raptors, including owls.  As you know, one of my favorite species is the Northern Saw-whet Owl,and we will be showing them off in two of our SGF outings. In the winter they are here - tiny and cryptic, well hidden in chaparral shrubs, valley riparian vegetation and foothill oaks. One local artist has captured the realistic cuteness of the saw-whet in her painting below - and this unique, original acrylic can be yours!

Northern Saw-whet Owl in Oak Tree Cavity.
By local artist Dorothy Davis
 Dorothy Davis wanted to contribute a piece of her art to help support the owl project.  Her adorable painting will be up for bid at SGF silent auction at the banquet, "A Gathering of Wings." Make sure to stop by and place a bid!. We are so fortunate to have a valley full of birds and artists to capture their beauty.

Close up of Saw-whet by Dorothy Davis