Friday, November 13, 2009

Busy week

We're supposed to be on the downward slide to the end of the owl season, but it doesn't feel like it.

Normally, our peak flights come right around Halloween, but a full moon Nov. 2, and a lot of unseasonably mild air, seems to have delayed the migration. The couple of big nights we had on Oct. 18 and 25 tend to mask the trend, but if you look at our capture totals in seven-night blocks, here's what you find:

Oct. 1-7: 0 saw-whets
Oct. 8-14: 9
Oct. 15-21: 74
Oct. 22-28: 60
Oct. 29-Nov. 4: 63
Nov. 5-11: 98

Last night, the 12th, we had another 21 owls between the three sites, and reports from the north make me suspect there are more to come. Holiday Beach in Ontario, across the river from Detroit, is still getting 20-30 owls a night, and Prince Edward Point, on the northeast shore of Lake Ontario, banded 500+ owls this season, of which only two have been recaptured - we normally get a lot of PEPtBO's birds, suggesting they're still to our north.

We've had a bunch of interesting foreign recaptures this week as well. Two have come from Glenn Proudfoot's operation at the Mohonk Preserve in southeastern New York, one from Quebec in 2007, and another from Virginia in 2008. We also caught another old saw-whet, banded as a hatching-year (juvenile) in 2004 by Clair Mellinger in Bergton, VA - which was quite a coincidence, because in 2005 we caught another of Clair's owls, banded that same night the year before.

So far we've caught 22 foreign owls, while eight of our birds have been reported from other sites. Both totals are a little on the low side, especially the latter.

The telemetry crew has been busy all week. Esmeralda had been hanging out south of King's Gap on private land, so they focused their attention on Isra, who has been a real challenge to track, covering a much larger area than past owls have done this year or last. Here's an example of one partial night's tracking, from dusk at 18:00 hours until about 2 a.m.; the polygons are color-coded from pale to dark to make it easier to follow her movements over time.

The results of one night of tracking Isra, the wandering saw-whet. (©NSCNA)

That night, she covered an area about twice the size of a typical half-night track for one of our 2008 owls. Whether this is just an expression of her personality, her hunting skill (or lack thereof) or a general scarcity of prey, we can't yet say.

On Tuesday night, I joined the tracking crew to follow Isra around Buck Ridge and upper King's Gap Hollow. That night she was behaving herself a little more, making it easier for Hannah and Drew to track her, although Kim had to keep shifting to get a clear bearing.

That same night, the KG banding crew put another radio on a new owl, an adult female nicknamed Fang (hey, just because we think they're cute doesn't mean they aren't ferocious little predators). Two nights later, they tagged an HY female dubbed Feist, because it pulled so much blood from Drew during harnessing.

The timing was perfect, since both Esmeralda and Isra left the same night. Isra in particular had been a real trouper, sticking around since Oct. 19 and giving us a lot of data.

We're almost done deploying our geolocators - out of 178, we have about 15 left. None of the geolocator-tagged owls have turned up at other sites, but then, only one of the 326 owls we've banded so far this year have been recaptured by another site - the remarkable "Wrong Way" Corrigan of an owl I wrote about last weekend.

No comments: