The first week of our season is usually slow, and 2008 has been no exception. The only site operating Saturday was Hidden Valley (Small Valley was closed for banding because Girl Scouts were using the camp, and King's Gap won't open until Oct. 11), and bander George Gress reported "no coyotes, no owls, just another dose of 2006 quiet." For members of our crew, invocation of 2006 carries a special significance, since that was our worst season ever -- in the first 26 nights of fulltime banding, we caught only seven owls.
Fortunately, I don't think this is going to be another 2006, in part because of the reports from our north. Yesterday morning we got word that one of our 2007 owls has been reported -- an SY-F (second-year female) banded Nov. 2, 2007 at Hidden Valley, which was recaptured Friday night at Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory (PEPtBO), on the north shore of Lake Ontario.
Dave Okines, who runs PEPtBO, caught 68 NSWOs Friday, including eight foreign owls. He's up to 159 for the season, which started about two weeks ago for them...not huge numbers, but quite respectable. PEPtBO is on a long peninsula at the northeast corner of the lake, a terrific migrant funnel, and a lot of those owls will be coming this way, because we get more interstation recoveries of PEPtBO owls than from any other site.
Here's a map showing the locations of our three banding sites:
And here's where PEPtBO is in relation to us -- directly upstream, so to speak:
A lot of birds coming south out of Ontario hit the lake and split to either side, many going through PEPtBO, others down the Long Point peninsula on Lake Erie, opposite Presque Isle, PA. We get some of Long Point's birds, but not nearly as many, unsurprisingly.
Tonight Hidden Valley and Small Valley are both open, and I'll be at Small Valley with research tech Anna Fasoli, telemetry coordinator Aura Stauffer and intern Drew Weber, hoping to intercept our first saw-whet of the season and bestow a radio transmitter on it. For the past two weeks Anna has been running "error tests," trying out our triangulation techniques and mapping software using hidden transmitters in lieu of live owls, and we're ready for the real deal.