Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Gemini and Maria: "flew the coop?"

Right: Carl searching for Gemini near Tom's Run (Photo: Carl Leinbach)
Below: Lexi barely visible in a pitch pine

Yesterday, I went out tracking with volunteer Carl Leinbach to find Lexi's roost location. Carl and his wife, Pat, live nearby, and have been faithful volunteers for the entire season.

Mainly, they joined us for night-tracking, running around the woods and helping us chase down owls. It was great to have their company and help, and I will greatly miss working with them!

This was the second time Carl joined me on a roost check. A few months back, we tracked Quasi to a pitch pine, and documented it as her second use of the same tree. Lexi was again roosting towards the Buck Ridge, so we trekked up the steep slope that we have hiked more times than we can count in the last four months. We were having a few receiver problems, and ended up switching between 2 receivers to locate the owl (we think that the cold temperatures were interferring with the transmitter on the owl, the receivers, or both).

To get above the owl, we hiked higher than we needed to; it is easier to locate an owl starting out from a higher elevation than the owl to avoid the signal bouncing off the walls of a steep hollow, and being inhibited by the "shelves" that make up the slope. As we approached the area where we figured the owl should be, based on our readings from farther away, the signal faded away, as did the "bars" on the receiver (the signal from the owl's transmitter comes in as a "pulse" through the receiver, and this pulse can be monitored by sound, or visually through bars that continually fluctuate based on signal strength).

We were about to give up, when we both decided to start searching a nearby pitch pine. I was extremely doubtful that we would find her, but sure enough, we saw her little round body shining in the sun almost 60 feet up in a pitch pine. Thanks again to Carl for helping me hunt her down!

Next, we set out to track Gemini, who has taken up residence for over a month near Pine Grove Furnace State Park. There were no "beeps" to be heard anywhere near her usual haunts by Tom's Run. I last noted she was present on the 18th, and it is likely she left the area in anticipation of the few inches of snow that fell on the 19th. Maria also seems to be gone, and has not been located in her typical area since the 13th. The owls may have found a nearby hollow to roost in, or may have moved on further south, continuing their migrations. We will spend the next few days trying to relocate them.

No comments: