Saturday, October 10, 2009

Slow going

The banding stations have been open for a week, but in that time we've netted just a single saw-whet, caught Oct. 5 at our Hidden Valley site - one of the slowest starts we've had in the 13 years we've been studying owl migration.

Part of the reason may lay with the relatively mild, windy, showery weather we've had here in the mid-Atlantic, but I suspect even more of the problem lies to our north - a series of storms that have paraded across southeastern Canada, slowing down the migration.

However, there's a dramatic change in the weather coming over the next few days, with an Arctic air mass plunging down through the Great Lakes and East, with predictions of snow downwind of the lakes and on the higher elevations of New England. We're expecting this cold snap to generate the first good push of owls in our region, perhaps as early as tonight.

Meantime, our radio-telemetry crew has been focusing its attention on the screech-owl we tagged last month, and they're taking a weekend off after six nights of triangulation. Skreech, as they nicknamed the bird, has been hunting the western side of King's Gap State Park and adjacent portions of Michaux State Forest, moving around frequently enough to keep Drew, Hannah and Kim on their toes. Once we start getting saw-whets, they'll switch their attention to them, but we'll continue to keep track of Skreech in the weeks ahead, too.

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