Monday, October 13, 2008

First night at King's Gap

Sunday night was opening night for the King's Gap banding. Since it is the southern-most banding site, King's Gap opens about a week later than the two other banding sites. It is about 30 and 40 miles further south than the Small Valley and Hidden Valley banding sites, respectively.

The net lanes were in need of some trimming and raking to keep leaves and sticks out of the nets and the four nets had to be set up. As we started up the audiolure, there was not a lot of optimism about our chances of catching an owl. It was an absolutely beautiful night, but the warm weather coupled with a full moon and no clouds were not ideal conditions for catching saw-whets.

We occupied ourselves between net checks by watching the flying squirrel that was scampering around the banding station and scaling the walls, looking for food. Anna and I also tried out the GPS (Global Positioning System) units we will be using for the telemetry project, making sure we know how to use them. These units have the ability to communicate position with each other so while we are in the middle of the woods we can easily see where the other two telemetry teams are, allowing us to better triangulate the owl we are tracking.

After some field-testing of the GPS units and hearing a Great Horned Owl hooting off in the valley, we headed back to the banding station to find out the banders had caught their first owl of the season. The bird was a second year (SY) female, which I believe is all we have banded so far this season at our three locations. This particular bird weighed in at 88 grams and had very little fat on it.
One final net check at midnight produced no more birds so we closed up for the night. The telemetry crew will be back at King's Gap tonight, hoping for another saw-whet owl. If we are lucky, we'll be putting a transmitter on a saw-whet early this week and begin tracking it as it travels around King's Gap.

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