Friday, October 17, 2008

Dizzy's gone, but new owls are beeping

Well, the change in the weather brought a little improvement in our fortunes - along with a lot of leaves in the nets. Although Small Valley didn't catch any owls, they heard NSWO (that's the banding code for northern saw-whet owl) vocalizing in the woods. Hidden Valley had one (plus a big tear in one of the nets, courtesy of a passing mammal) while King's Gap snagged two new birds, both adult females, and both of which left with radio-transmitters.

That brings us to 15 saw-whets for the season. Last year at this time, during the huge southward irruption of saw-whets, we'd already caught 155 owls, but we're also well below our 10-year average for the date of 50 NSWOs. The warm weather really slowed things considerably, but I'm confident that will now change, since we're looking at blustery northwest winds and nighttime lows below freezing the next few nights.

It's a good thing we have two new birds with radios, because it appears Dizzy has finally flown the coop. Anna Fasoli and I got to Wolf Pond Rd. at 6 p.m., but there was no sign of her signal; we quickly walked in to the old roost site, checked, then split up and drove the middle and perimeter of the whole Haldeman Tract/Broad Mountain/Small Valley/Berry Mountain area without finding her. After Anna and I split up, she continued to track through Clark's Creek Valley and west of the Susquehanna on her way home to Carlisle, but came up empty.

Anna will be out today to locate the new owls' roost in King's Gap or Michaux State Forest, and we'll be doing daytime and nighttime tracking this weekend.

We received news this morning that another of our spring '08 owls was recaptured at a familiar place - Hopkins Memorial Forest in extreme northwestern Massachusetts, at Drew Jones' site run by Williams College. This is a that was banded March 2 at King's Gap, and is the second spring KG bird to show up at Hopkins this fall.

While I was repairing the torn net at Hidden Valley this morning, the woods were full of flocks of migrating robins, the air was full of falling maple and black gum leaves on the stiff breeze, and the sky was absolutely alive with big flocks of Canada geese. Those are all signs that we should see a change for the better in our owl numbers.

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