Monday, September 23, 2013

Northern Saw-whet Owl Banding continues in 2013

In 2012, with 5 month old twin boys at home, Kristen and I decided to take a break from northern saw-whet owl (NSWO) banding during the fall migration...  
We had captured and banded saw-whets at our farm, from 2006 to 2011!  In the coming weeks I will post some of the results from those 6 years of banding. 

Today I want to let you know that we are back at the owl banding for the 2013 fall!

NSWO banding at our farm (just north of Edenwold, Saskatchewan) begins each year around Sept 20th and continues until the end of October.  This year, I believe, we are one of 4 stations being operated in the province.  The others are near Kyle, Saskatoon and Prince Albert.

This is a panoramic of where are owl nets are located.  Click on the photo to see the whole photo.

On Friday last week, my boys and I pulled out the mist nets and patch some of the holes in the nets.  We mowed the net lanes and got the nets all set up.  I was surprised to find a few things had changed since we'd last banded at this location in 2011, including a few downed trees that were important for anchoring our nets.  Nevertheless, to keep consistent between years, we set the nets up in the exact same spot each year.
Rowan and Teal helping to set up the owl mist nets.
With everything set, we began the owl banding season on Friday at dusk (Sept 20).  It is such an amazing experience, with life being so busy, to stand still and quietly as the world around you is enveloped in darkness.  Sounds are magnified tremendously.  One could be convinced that that snowshoe hare moving through the bush, is actually an angry raging bear! lol.

I was pleased to hear and then see our resident short-tailed weasel who has lived in our yard for many years (and in our garage during the last 3 winters)!  I wish I could band that guy to see if it is actually the same animal.  We have never lost an owl in the nets, so really have no concerns about this guy. 
On the other side of the nets, I was also greeted by a long-time friend, who we affectionately refer to as "Ruffy", our resident Ruffed Grouse.  Ruffy has had a drumming log on both sides of the nets over the last 7 years and is always present during saw-whet banding!  Again I wonder if this could be the same bird who was there when we started this crazy project!

Alas, Friday evening resulted in no owls captured.  The wind picked up to 20 km/hr from the southeast shortly after we opened.  Saturday saw wind gusts of 40-60 km/hr over night so we did not open the nets.

Sunday evening, saw our first owl hit the net!  So that's one so far.  We will see how many owls come through our farm this fall! 
First Northern Saw-whet Owl banded fall 2013 near Edenwold, SK
Because I am back at school again this fall, we will try to be a bit sensible about when we close nets.  As long as weather permits, the nets are opened at dusk and will stay open until 11:00pm or midnight.  Unfortunately we can not band all night. :(

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