Friday, October 31, 2008

Busy day, slow night

Despite absolutely perfect conditions, our crews managed just six new saw-whets last night - a sobering reflection of how slow a season this has been. We're at 106 saw-whets, less than half our 10-year average of 229 for the date, and 4.5 times fewer owls than the 497 we had by this date last year during the big irruption.

In fact, we've had only one season -- 2006, our Annus Horriblis -- when the YTD total was worse. That miserable autumn we had just 40 owls by now, having gone the first 24 nights with a total of five saw-whets.

So it could be worse.

Fortunately, this has been a spectacularly successful year for the telemetry program, thanks to our telemetry team of Anna Fasoli, Drew Weber and telemetry coordinator Aura Stauffer, with a bunch of great volunteers. Aura was out yesterday with volunteer Carl Juris checking on all four tagged owls. They found Morticia, the newest bird, in King's Gap Hollow -- sort of. They narrowed the signal down to a large white pine on the east side of King's Gap Hollow, but couldn't get a visual on the owl.

Aura and Carl did find Fairfield in the same general area where she's been hanging out, just north of Pine Grove Furnace State Park. Ever the cooperative little saw-whet, she was perched low in a pitch pine, and Aura got some great photos of Carl taking dbh (diameter breast height) measurements on the trees around the roost, as well as Fairfield herself.

Fairfield, wondering how the primates keep managing to find her. (Aura Stauffer)

Carl Juris collecting vegetation data (©Aura Stuaffer)

After Carl headed for home, Aura found Quasi back in her roost tree from the 27th - she's been alternating between the same two trees since she was tagged on the 26th.

Find the owl among the pine cones: Quasi on her roost, or, Why owl trackers develop sore necks. (©Aura Stauffer)

Autumn, on the other hand, was nowhere to be found. Having spent nearly two weeks in southern King's Gap SP, she moved southeast of the park below Hammond's Rocks Tuesday night, and yesterday Aura couldn't pick up her signal in that area, or back in her old haunts. Maybe she's left, or maybe she's tucked in a new hollow -- time will tell.

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