Monday, October 27, 2008

A windy night for Quasi

Tonight, convenience was the word. Drew and I arrived at King’s Gap around 6:30 to track either Autumn or Quasimodi (Quasi for short), the plump new owl we put a transmitter on last night. Autumn was at her usual location about 1 mile south west of the Pond Area, while Quasi was roosting in the south east section of King’s Gap Hollow. We chose to track Quasi, hoping she would stay in the vicinity of King’s Gap to use the roads to our advantage. Initially, it appeared as though Quasi moved north east of her roost a short distance of about .2 miles. As Drew and I figured out the best locations to biangulate by 8:00 pm, she seemed to move slightly down slope and to the west, just a few hundred meters from her roost location. For the next few hours, Quasi was quite boring to track. In the world of owls, this translates to catching, tearing in half, eating, and digesting a mouse. We noticed slight fluctuations in the location of her signal during this time (through midnight), but this may have been attributed to the gusty winds. Wind can move the trees between trackers and the owl, including the branch the owl is on, causing these fluctuations, despite a lack of movement by the owl off her branch. The movements were so small that we had no way to distinguish them between (slight) real owl movements, and interference from wind. However, we can make a good assumption that Quasi was not actively hunting at the time, and most likely had a mouse.

Because Quasi did not move very far away, Drew and I were able to track from the comfort of our vehicles. The curves of King’s Gap road allowed us to surround her while being able to stay on the road, to use an angle of about 90 degrees to pinpoint her location. This is the first night we’ve tracked from our vehicles. On our other night time adventures, we trudged through the woods to find the best vantage points. While both methods work the same, I must admit that sitting in a vehicle alone is slightly more appealing that sitting in the woods alone. Even better, I was able to plot our readings on my computer to see how they were intersecting. At around 11:00 pm, Quasi had still not moved, so we triangulated her position. This is similar to a biangulation, but instead of just two readings from two different locations, we added another. I drove to a third location shortly after we simultaneously took the first two. Because Quasi was not moving at the time, this worked well, and we were able to get a more exact location on where she had been chowing down on her mouse. We’ll head out again tomorrow night with a few new volunteers to see what Quasi or the others are up to.

Susan Klugman and Karl Kleiner relocated Fairfield today in Michaux State Forest. We had previously thought she left when we didn’t find her 2 days ago at her favorite mountain laurel patch. Now we’ve got 3 beeping owls in the area, which will give us many good options for night tracking over the next two nights.

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