A Northern Saw-whet Owl – November Surprise
Friday evening after 11 hours of banding, the Allegany State Park station had one of its best nights. What I don’t understand was that Thursdays evening also had equally nice winds (from the north) but we didn’t catch any owls. The different I did notice between the two nights was that birds normally moving south were observed in the NEXRAD radar moving in a westerly direction.
Within the first 4 hours of operations we had banded 7 newly captured birds and there was no doubt that I wouldn’t be going to bed until 5am in the morning. Winds were calm from the North East and then slowly shifted to the South East as the evening progressed. I had decided to close early due to a slow spell that appeared to be developing. But I have this simple rule that when you catch an owl, the nets must stay open for another net check. It wasn’t until 4:15am that I got my first opportunity to close and head to bed. I seriously considered doing an all nighter but the winds really started picking up and there was a big storm closely approaching. It was time to close everything up and head to bed.
Catching 11 individuals for the night is the stations new record!! Overall the station banded 9 new birds and 2 additional individuals originally banded 15 days ago during the Perfect Fluffball Night. The one recaptured bird was our friend from earlier in the week (Nov 6 ) which had lost 10.3grams!! Over the past 4 nights this bird has gained back 2.2grams. The other recaptured bird which I had originally banded 15 days ago had lost 5.2 grams (which is almost 6% of its body weight).
Questions that I begin to ask after looking at the data include: Are these two young birds local birds which have no intention on migrating south? Were they hatched late in the season and not ready to start moving yet? Could these birds have arrived at their current wintering grounds? Is it possible that due to weather these birds have located a stopover site and will continue migration in the near future? I hope that over time that we can answer these questions and get a better understanding of these birds Natural History. All I can hope is that my neighboring banding friends catch these fluff balls at their station!!
FYI: Many banders across the North East have been reporting this owl season being one of their worse season in 10 or more years. I have not had the consistent captures like last year but I have had 2 “BIG” nights which have taken me over my previous two year’s numbers (birds per net hours and individuals captured). The best part is that my season isn’t over yet! Check back to Mon@rch’s Nature Blog for learning how my season continues. (I think its time for a nap)!!