Tuesday, November 22, 2016


We had another great season with 57 new NSWO and 8 same season recaptures. The  owls arrived steadily and we only dipped one night, so 17 out of 18 nights of effort, we banded owls. There were two peak migration nights on November 1 (8 owls and 1 recapture) and November 16 (8 new owls!).
A trio of owls could indicate family members flying together.
On these peak nights we typically capture multiple owls in one run and there is current DNA research to determine if these may be siblings or family members migrating together. The eight same season recaps is our record for recaptures in one season. They stayed on the property between 6 days and 26 days and may continue to winter on the Reserve. Their overlapping and continued presence and good body weight indicates a healthy prey base (rodents) for so many owls.This year we had several chunky owls with a good amount of fat and weights over 100 grams! Fat, which can be seen as a yellow layer under the skin, is an important fuel for migration and cold winter nights.
This individual has 3-4 generations of feathers, noted by the different colors in the
blocks of feathers; she is over 3 years old
We have also noted that the older birds tend to migrate later (we capture them later in the season), probably because the young of the year disperse early from their natal area. On our last banding night we banded this older female with several generations of feathers. These birds can be challenging to age, but it is great to see that some owls survive seasons of migration and breeding.

Thank you volunteers Julie Woodruff, Ken Sobon, Julie Newman, Wyatt Hersey, Erika Iacona, Maureen Morales and Kim Armstrong, for another great season of owl monitoring, season 12!!!!

Sunday, November 6, 2016


One of our project's goals is to educate people about Saw-whet owls. On Friday we got to introduce an owl to a group of 8 girl scouts and two moms (Troop 70079). My colleague at the US Forest Service, Maria Cisneros, organized this group so we were representing the USFS, Altacal Audubon Society and the Reserve, a great team! Wyatt, one of the owl banders, entertained the girls with moon, stars and wildlife stories, Maria shared binoculars, headlamps, flashlights, and treats and I even got to tell a spooky ghost story. Perfect under-the-milky way conversation! And then came an owl.......

Troop 70079 at the BCCER with Maria Cisneros (USFS) and Wyatt Hersey (Altacal)
 On our last run, voila! there she was, all feathers and golden eyes. So our conversation went to ooohs and aaaahs and the value of owls in the ecosystem, the importance of forests and snags for their breeding, Reserve habitats for migration refueling and wintering, owls as individuals and their amazing feathered toes, large asymmetric ears and keen vision. The saw-whet cast her spell again and left 8 girls, no doubt dreaming about owls!

Showing the numbered USGS bracelet (band, bling!) that we place
on the owls tarsus to identify them as individuals.
All smiles! Our owl is in the middle of the picture. Next step, RELEASE!