Friday, October 24, 2008

Dots on the map

We keep putting along here this fall - no huge numbers, but enough to make it worthwhile to stay up in the cold.

Small Valley was the hot spot last night, with six new owls including another foreign owl. Three new birds at King's Gap, and two more (including an hatch year male) at Hidden Valley, to the delight of 10 visiting schoolkids from the Philadelphia area.

That makes 83 for the season, and if it seems slow, I'd point out that by this date in 2006 we'd caught a grand total of five saw-whets, at all three sites combined. Now that's slow. (Yeah, I know...last year by this date, the big irruption had brought us 282 saw-whets. Such are the realities of studying a cyclical migrant.)

On the tracking front, yesterday Jamie Flickinger checked on Fairfield, who remains in her Impenetrable Forest of laurel on Michaux State Forest, not having shifted much from the past several days. Jamie didn't have a chance to check on Autumn.

There was no information yet on the foreign owl from Small Valley when I reported it online to the Banding Lab today, but we did learn that the foreign NSWO caught Oct. 17 at Hidden Valley was banded by our colleague Glenn Proudfoot exactly a year earlier, Oct. 17 '07, at the Mohonk Preserve in the Shawngunk Mountains of southeastern New York.

We've also had three encounters with our own birds elsewhere this week. On Wednesday night, an owl banded Oct. 18 at Hidden Valley was recaptured at a new banding site near Sperryville (Rappahannock Co.) Virginia, about 170 miles to the southwest, and on the east slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Shenandoah National Park. Here's a map showing the distance between the sites.

Such "direct recoveries" within the same migration cycle are always interesting, since they can shed light on flight routes and timing; I wonder whether this bird traveled along the ridge-and-valley system into western Virginia before jumping across the Shenandoah Valley to the Blue Ridge, or if it crossed the valley near Carlisle, PA, and headed down the northern terminus of the Blue Ridge past King's Gap and the Lamb's Knoll saw-whet station in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland.

Also reported to us were two fall '07 Small Valley birds, one banded 10/10/07 and recaptured near Elkins, VA on Monday night, and a saw-whet banded Oct. 8 '07 and recaptured last night at Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary near Lincoln, Mass.

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