My life is about living with nature – here you can live it with me!

The End of a Good Season

This year the Allegany State Park (Northern Saw-whet Owl) Banding Station was open for 28 nights and we captured 40 individuals with 49 total NSWO captures. We do not catch the large numbers like what the big migration sites catch but the numbers this season was significantly better than the previous two years. We caught an additional Barred Owl and Eastern Screech Owl during the project with the unexpected captures of some Northern Flying Squirrel, a Northern Long-eared Bat and then a White-tailed Deer which run through one of the nets.

Saying So Long for Another Season

A NSWO just after being released.

The percentage of captured males / female / unknown sex were fairly consistent with the previous year’s numbers. We also found similar consistency with hatch year and after hatch year birds. There was a significant increase of birds per 100 net hours and our capture numbers were also increased due to two big migration nights. On 26th October we had a 10 bird night with 3 additional birds returning to the mist net that same evening. The next big night was on the 10th of November with 9 new captures, 2 recaptures from the 26 th of October and one same night recapture. The birds who returned 15 days later both lost weight during their stopover.


Captured Individuals

% Male

% Female

% Unknown Sex

% Hatch Year

% After Hatch Year

Birds per 100 nethours

























Part of being involved with Project Owlnet is the ability to network and share everyone’s knowledge with other Northern Saw-whet Owl Banders across North America. We are able to look for unique differences or similarities throughout each of the stations by using similar protocols. The obvious observations this year across the East Coast were that the Northern Saw-whet Owls were a week or two behind in their movement south. I have a strong suspicion that many of those birds had a longer stopover here in the Western New York area (as reported by my two 15 day recaptures). This season our last capture date was on the 24th of November which was 12 days after our 2005 late date. I have to agree with my fellow banders that these birds were behind in their movement south.


Caught in the net

This picture is of a NSWO caught in the mist net.

On occasion we capture foreign owls originally banded by another bander. After reporting these finds to the Bird Banding Lab the Project Owlnet will sometimes assist in quickly connecting your wonderful find with the original bander. This season we were able to capture 3 foreign recaptured birds. We learned that 2 of the birds were originally banded in Ontario Canada and the 3rd owl had not been reported to the Banding Lab yet. I have a strong suspicion that this bird also came from Ontario Canada (time will tell).

Wing Molt

A foreign recaptured NSWO (after second year) with a unique wing molt pattern

I would like to thank my banding assistant Jordon and numerous other volunteers which assisted me with the banding operations. It is with their help which keeps this station in operation and keep me entertained after my many long hours of sleepless nights. The season is being scheduled to start again October 1st, 2007 for Fall Migration here in Allegany State Park. I have to work out the detail but I would love to give Lake Erie State Park a try for Spring Migration. Please return to the blog to see any updates on my visits to the numerous Saw-whet Owl boxes which were placed by some Eagles Scouts last summer and any summer breeding pairs located!

12 responses

  1. Marg

    Wow! great pics Tom and I’m so glad you had such a great season………..gotta start working on getting there to help out next year 😀

    And getting you guys up here!

    30 November 2006 at 6:45 pm

  2. Dinali

    Love the pictures and I would like to know if you and/or others have any theory of why they were late on their migration.

    Also.. would you mind explaining to a novice on birds what is the unique wing molt pattern that you see and I don’t :-)))

    .. hope you know the novice is me !

    30 November 2006 at 9:09 pm

  3. Thanks Marg and would love to have you come out and help! We will work something out!
    Dinali – if you look at the description page you will see that I use a black light in helping to age the feathers!! So, being a novice or not isn’t that easy! I also use many guides for helping to understand the molt limits of the birds! If you go to the picture in flickr, I will try to add notes to the different age feathers (maybe you can see it better). Thanks for visiting and wonderful question!

    30 November 2006 at 10:58 pm

  4. theAdventurist

    Hey Tom,

    Great findings. It is nice to know that it seems like the Owl populations in your area are rising. Here is a question for you: Do you think that the Owls might be hanging around longer because the temperatures have stayed unusually high late in the season? I wonder if this could be a small sign of global warming on a larger scale.

    It is pretty neat about you capturing the previously banded Owls from Ontario. Do these Owls migrate? I was not aware of this before. But then again, you are the expert in our eyes.

    Thanks again for the great update!

    J. Alan Hendricks, Editor, “The Adventurist”

    30 November 2006 at 11:47 pm

  5. Beverly

    Now that owl season is over, what is next on your list of exciting things to do?

    1 December 2006 at 5:16 am

  6. Jeremy Martin

    Congrats on the successfully season. Hopefully now you will be able to get some sleep at night 🙂 This is such an interesting project!

    1 December 2006 at 7:09 am

  7. I never answered that question from Dinali – they believe the reason they are so far behind is that the cone crop was very good up north and as a result the mice numbers are very high! If there is a great deal of food, there is no reason to start moving south!
    @ adventure – these owls are nomadic which mean they just wonder and don’t return to the same area year after year (for a norm)!! Just means weather pushed them this way this year and mice numbers were better here this year than in other years! There are always bigger environmental factors behind everything! This is a major reason for our networking in looking at regional differences to get a better understanding on what is really going on. Hard to say what Global warming is doing but I don’t think it is a major factor in this scenario – its more involved with food.
    Bev – I need sleep but just getting out and doing some birding and planning for up coming banding in the early summer and butterflies in the spring.
    Thanks Jeremy!

    1 December 2006 at 12:31 pm

  8. Fantastic info and pictures.
    I remember a few years ago when the vole count was very low in Canada and various owls migrated down to Minnesota, it was amazing to see the numbers and varieties but tragic because so many were unaccustomed to our metro areas nor roadways and there were many many fatalities. We do have a strong rapture rescue community so some were saved but I am glad we haven’t witnessed an oddity like that recently because the sacrifices and plight far outweighed the pleasure of having rare visitors.

    3 December 2006 at 2:13 pm

  9. Thanks talkingtotrees! They are expecting next year to be a big owl year, so keep your eyes open for them again. I am glad to hear about your wonderful rescue people working on those that need the help! Thanks again for visiting!

    3 December 2006 at 3:13 pm

  10. Grace

    How do you account for the larger percentage of females vs males? Do the females migrate earlier/later?

    7 December 2006 at 12:04 pm

  11. Grace – wonderful question and since I am using a male Saw-whet song the audio lure is more likely to attract the females. There are males which will come down to investigate but might not come as close as the females do. I have noticed that in the fall the Males show up later in the season than the females.

    7 December 2006 at 3:06 pm

  12. Garth N. Baker

    I have been reading some of your stories for several months,and find them all quite interesting.I have resently started Banding and run a small Raptor Station in Central Ontario with a Master Bander. We banded 24 Saw-whets last fall and had a Foreign Retrap of an AHY from Linwood Springs in Wisconsin.It was banded as a HY the previous Fall.I find it remarkable how they cover such a known distance(600 miles) and the probable unkown distances in their Migrations.Look forward to more from you and perhaps we may recapture each others NSWO’s in the future.

    24 June 2007 at 1:21 pm

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