Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Off to the Races

After a slow start, things are finally hopping, and it's only going to get busier.

Sunday night we caught our first saw-whet of the season at Small Valley in Dauphin County, a second-year (SY) female which, in addition to a numbered leg band, also received the first radio transmitter of the season. The tiny, 2-gram device smaller than a pencil eraser is held in place in the middle of her back with a figure-eight harness of lightweight elastic beading cord.

The crew nicknamed the owl "Dizzy," because of the way she was spun up inside the mist net. After holding her overnight to make sure the harness wasn't interfering with her, we released her at Small Valley Monday night, and research technician Anna Fasoli, intern Drew Weber and I spent hours following her movements as she steadily shifted farther and farther east of the banding site.
Aura Stauffer, left, and Anna Fasoli fit a radio transmitter onto "Dizzy." (©Scott Weidensaul)

Smaller than a pencil eraser, the transmitter is all but hidden by the owl's back feathers. (©Scott Weidensaul)

This was mostly a shakedown for the intensive triangulation work we'll be doing this fall, using three tracking teams to simultaneously record bearings on the signal from the owl's transmitter, thus allowing us to plot its location through the night -- something that's rarely been attempted with saw-whets.

While we were tracking Dizzy, bander Guy Ubaghs and his SV crew caught two more saw-whets, including a "foreign recap," an owl banded elsewhere. When I find out where she was banded, I'll be sure to post it. Already this season, three of our owls from previous years have been reported, two in Ontario and one this weekend in western Massachusetts.

Over at our Hidden Valley site in Schuylkill County, bander Jim Logan Sr. and his crew had their first saw-whet of the season. Our third site, King's Gap, opens this weekend.

Driving to and from our sites at night is always a little dicey, given all the deer, but for the second time in little more than a week, I had to brake hard Monday evening on my way to Small Valley to avoid hitting a big black bear that loped across the road in front of me.

Scott Weidensaul

1 comment:

Katrina said...

Aura has long hair!! I haven't seen her in ages. Just wanted to say HI guys! I'm sorry I can't be there with you - no banding for me down here in GA. It's very exciting with all the new additions to the Saw-whet work. Have a great season and I'm enjoying keeping up on the emails!
Trina Morris