Thursday, November 5, 2009

Owl Nightlife, or... what does a saw-whet do at night?

We have now been tracking Isra for over 2 weeks now, with a lot of good data coming from our long nights at King's Gap and in the Michaux State Forest. With the migration season in full swing for the owls, we are now starting to hear the strange barks and whines of the saw-whets as we are walking through the forest. Sometimes it's the owl we are tracking, but often it is another saw-whet in the woods.

Isra perched high in a pitch pine

Isra has a routine going for her that she repeats every night we have been tracking her. Soon after dark, she leaves her roost and becomes very active, flying back and forth along the King's Gap/Michaux State Forest border. She keeps us on our toes as we run around, trying to figure out where she is off to. Several times she has completely ditched us, only to show up back at near the banding station at King's Gap.

After flying around for several hours, presumably hunting, she often settles down for several hours and gives us some time to relax and enjoy the night sounds other than our feet crunching the newly fallen leaves.

Isra often stays relatively still until shortly before dawn, when she starts flying again and soon ends up in the pitch pine where she will roost for the day. As the sun comes up, we get to go search for the roost site so we know where to find her the following evening.

Mornings are great at King's Gap because there are steady streams of migrating birds flying around. Currently, American Robins steal the show but grackles and juncos are also common in large flocks.

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