Friday, January 27, 2017


In a fun competition, Ken Sobon and I bet on which banding site would band the most saw-whet owls for the 2017 Snow Goose Festival (SGF) field trips. The festival is a great opportunity to see if owls are wintering on site. SO, Ken and crew Julie Newman, Wyatt Hersey and Maureen Morales, and Reserve research director Jon Aull, took SGF participants up to the BCCER (our typical fall monitoring site). Banders Julie Woodruff, Erika Iacona  and I, set up nets at Butte Creek Ecological Preserve (BCEP), an alternate winter banding site. AND the winner was........
Ken Sobon bands a wintering  saw-whet owl at the BCCER 
Red light helps the owl adjust to the night sky where it will be released

SGF participant releases a saw-whet owl
BCCER-with 2 saw-whet owls! We had no saw-whet owls at BCEP- but Butte Creek was flowing high and very loud which may have had a impact on owls hearing our broadcast. Our night was enhanced by loads of stars and Ryan's (Reserve staff) fire. Guests were offered an opportunity to band owls this fall. At the end of the night when all was quiet, a western screech owl flew into our site and called for a half hour.

Friday, January 20, 2017

ATTENTION SAW-WHET OWLS - Nest Boxes Available!

Ken Sobon and team have installed over 15 nest boxes on the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve (BCCER). He is hoping that the boxes will attract saw-whets, perhaps those wintering on the Reserve or moving through in spring, will stay and nest. If a pair does-it would be the first documented saw-whets breeding on site! We haven't done any summer surveys so we can't say they don't breed here. Generally I think the Reserve is too low in elevation (and hot) for Sierra Nevada breeding habitat, but these owls are shown to be nomadic, meaning they will breed where conditions are right (good prey, micro-climate) and don't often return to the same breeding area.
Locations of seven nest boxes on the Reserve. Also see our two banding sites, OWL2 and OWL3. The structures include barn workshop, office and old ranch house.The forests provide cover and good roosting habitat for owls and the meadows are great habitat for foraging for rodents.
You can see the boxes are distributed around, mostly under good canopy cover and near meadows for foraging and all boxes face NE (cooler). Some are on different tree species, some near small drainages, some with a different slope aspect.  It will be really exciting to check these boxes. Other cavity nesters that might find the boxes homey are western screech owl, ash-throated flycatcher, northern flying squirrel, wood rats and???  Monitoring begins in early March. Stay tuned!
This box #8 will be under a fairly dense cavity when the oaks leaf out.
You can see the canopy closure in the aerial google earth photo above
taken in late May.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Let's Get it Started! Nest Box Program for the 2017 NSWO Breeding Season

New project co-director Ken Sobon is moving forward into the breeding season for owls. We don't know if NSWO breed on site, but we have captured them as late as 4 April, likely during spring migration. We have made limited attempts during the late spring, early summer to identify nesting birds, with negative results. BUT this species is opportunistic and considered to be nomadic, nesting where the prey base and other conditions are right, and not necessarily returning to the same nesting area. Habitats on the Reserve could be good for saw-owl breeding in some years.

Ken's nest box building team, hoping to entice saw-whet owls!

Drilling the "cavity" entrance
Ken and his team may be monitoring for years before
actually finding a breeding owl, or it could happen this spring. If he does find a saw-whet it will be the first documented nesting on site. He might also find other cavity nesters using the boxes including Western screech owl, American kestrel, ash-throated flycatcher, northern flying squirrels and ??? Check back to our blog!

Ken installing nest box #5

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

New Project Directors Ken Sobon and Julie Newman 2017

Welcome Ken and Julie as the Northern saw-whet owl fall monitoring project's new directors. What a great journey it has been and a privilege to pass the project along to these two dedicated volunteers. Ken is the VP for Altacal Audubon Society (our project sponsor) and Julie is a professional environmental scientist. Both have banded and participated with the project for several years.
Ken Sobon, NSWO project Co-director
Julie Newman, NSWO project Co-director

Long-term monitoring of a species is essential to understand population trends and local natural history. Thank you for continuing this important work. Great team!