Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Settling in

Today, I set out with Alex, a dedicated telemetry and banding volunteer, to find our two King's Gap owls, Autumn and Fairfield, who are still residing in the area. Both have really "settled in" to specific areas. We found Fairfield very close to the area she has been using since October 19th, so it was no surprise that we had to fight through the mountain laurel bushes yet again. As I narrowed down the search to a small area with the telemetry equipment, Alex scanned the tall pitch pine in the center of the area, and quickly spotted her. As usual, she had spotted us first, and was staring down at us. This time she was about 50 feet up in a pitch pine, unlike yesterday, when she was just 5 feet off the ground in a moutain laurel!

Next, we headed towards Autumn's location, about one mile west of Fairfield's roost. On sunday night, Drew and I tracked Autumn for 5 hours, along with volunteers Alex and Mark, who had helped us track Dizzy while she was at Weiser State Forest. This was our first night of tracking at King's Gap this year, and it went very well. Autumn stayed within about 1/2 mile of us, as we positioned ourselves on the two hillsides that surrounded the hollow she seemed to be focusing activity in. As with Dizzy, we had problems with signal bounce, but were still able to see periods of movement, and periods of rest. We ended around 11:30 pm. By the next morning, Autumn had settled in about 1/2 mile west of the area she focused her night time activity in. Drew and I pinpointed her location, but just couldn't get a visual on her in the extremely tall red maple tree she decided to roost in. Today however, Alex and I found her with no problem. Before I could even pinpoint the tree she was in with the telemetry equipment, Alex had spotted her about 35 feet up in a pitch pine, her tail feathers just visible in the fork of a branch. Alex observed her picking at her transmitter briefly, but everything looked to be in place as she sat contently in the tree.

So far, both of our owls have been incredibly cooperative, and are settling in quite well at their "favorite" spots. We plan to do night telemetry this sunday, monday, and tuesday nights, depending on the weather. From this we will be able to see how these owls' roost locations compare with their activity ranges at night, something we hope to learn much more about this season.

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