March 31, 2013. Emily and I spent two more nights banding owls, with varying success.
On Thursday, March 28, we were reluctant to go out. The weather wasn’t great, the wind was from the NW, and we had only gotten one Saw-whet Owl the previous time we were out banding. We decided to give it a shot anyway, and headed out to BBBO. We opened up the aerial nets and then the owl nets, and then headed back to the station. However we were waylaid by a White-throated Sparrow who had flown into our aerial nets. It turned out to be a recaptured sparrow banded on the left leg – which means it was probably banded by Bob McKinney and has made it through two Rochester winters.
We walked the lanes empty handed for the next 2.5 hours, when this little beauty showed up:
This is the second gray-morph Eastern Screech-Owl caught in the BBBO owl banding program. We couldn’t determine the sex, but the bird is in its second year. It seemed a little sleepy inside the lab (which seems to be a species trait!), but perked up immediately once it was back outside and flew away silently into the night.
The next several net-checks yielded one Saw-whet every time, for a total of 4 for the evening. Two were caught in the aerial nets, one in the owl nets, and one was simply plucked from a tree. It was a fascinating night to be out in the woods – we could hear Saw-whets clicking and chittering just out of sight, but it was silent otherwise.
Our next attempt was on Saturday, March 30. It was quite a contrast to the previous banding session. The sky was clear, there was almost no wind, and the woods were alive with creatures of all kinds. Woodcock peented in the field, turkeys roosted in the trees, spring peepers chorused in the distance, and Screech-owls whinnied and tremolo’ed from the direction of the Owl Woods. But . . . we heard no Saw-whets at all!
We made our net-checks every half hour for 3.5 hours. Finally, we decided to call it quits on the theory that any owls on the move would be taking advantage of the perfect migration conditions, and would not be tempted to stop for our caller. Murphy’s Law of the banding world says that you will always get birds when it is time to close, and we did. We managed to band one Saw-whet, and she was the first older bird we have seen this season.
Luke Tiller and some friends had been walking in the Owl Woods when they heard what was either an enormous Saw-whet Owl, or a caller. They stopped by to check things out, but we unfortunately had no owls to show them. We hope they’ll stop by again! Andrea Patterson