Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bad weather, good friends

An enormous low pressure system moved in the Northeast last night, and in advance of, unexpected rain overspread eastern Pennsylvania around dark, making for a shortened night at all three sites.

Although we managed to net two new saw-whets at Small Valley, and one new bird plus a local recap at King's Gap, we were blanked at Hidden Valley, where the rain came in fairly steadily around 8 p.m., and forced us to shut down at 9:30.

Which was a shame, because we've rarely had such a firmament of banding superstars on hand. Our good friends Bob and Martha Sargent, founders of the Hummer/Bird Study Group, had driven up from Alabama, and Anthony Hill and his wife Carlene were down from their home in Massachusetts. Bob and Martha's crew conduct spring and fall songbird banding at Fort Morgan on the Gulf coast, and have been largely responsible for an extensive network of banders in the East and Southeast (including me) who band western hummingbirds wintering in the region.

Anthony is a master bander who works every summer on Seal Island, Maine, banding puffins, and on Appledore Island, Maine, each spring and fall banding songbirds. He's also been trained to band hummingbirds, and like Bob and Martha, has caught the saw-whet bug.

Despite the weather, we had a nice welcoming dinner for them at Hidden Valley, where my crew (Phil Witmer and Barb Jucker) were joined by Small Valley coordinator Sandy Lockerman and SV crewmember Shirley Hamilton, and my wife Amy. We got wet, but we ate like royalty.

Phil, Sandy, Scott, Bob, Martha, Carlene, Anthony and Amy (thanks to Barb Jucker, behind the camera).

Before the rain arrived Monday, Aura Stauffer managed to track all three of our current telemetry owls. The newest, Quasi, has moved into the southern part of King's Gap park, where she was sitting high in a pitch pine, while Fairfield has moved almost three miles of the southwest, and was in a white pine close to Pine Grove Furnace State Park. Autumn, meanwhile, was right along the King's Gap/Michaux State Forest line, in a chestnut oak growing in a heavy regenerated old clearcut off a logging road, where Aura found a pellet and lots of whitewash - evidence she's used that roost before.

Here's their current locations (note that north is to the upper right corner, the better to fit the locations into the image).

The storm is currently strengthening into a major nor'easter, with predictions of 50 mph wind gusts and several inches of snow at the higher elevations tonight. We were poised to conduct a full-court-press triangulation tonight on one of the tagged owls, but in the interest of everyone's safety, we've canceled both tracking and banding.

No comments: