If you are interested in helping band Northern Saw-whet Owls, please contact me
off-line at <confergoldw...@aol.com>
Yesterday, I heard a weather forecast with a frost warning. Terrible. Only a
few of my tomatoes are ripe. But, the cold nights means that saw-whets will be
migrating soon. Wonderful.
My wife, Karen, and I band in our 7-acre front yard at 651 Hammond Hill Rd.
This is contiguous with the south side of Hammond Hill State Forest, about 2.5
miles from Slaterville Springs. Several years ago Sandy Podulka came up with an
acronym HHOWLS for Hammond Hill Owls.
The major concern for this project is the welfare of the owls and accuracy of
the collected data. I have had a mortality and lost data because of a crush of
unscheduled and inexperienced visitors. One-time-only look-and-see visitors
must ask me in advance for permission so that I can control the number on any
Banding saw-whets with the people who come out to help is one of my most
enjoyable experiences. Each trip out to the net at ~45 minute intervals is like
opening a Christmas present, sometimes just an empty box or the wonderful
vision of one or even many saw-whets in the net.
Those who would like to help band need no prior experience. My guideline is
that if you want to come out as a banding assistant, please expect to come out
for at least three nights. It would be most helpful if you and I could plan on
a not-rigid, non-binding one-day-a-week schedule, e.g., Saturday nights.
About 12,000 saw-whets are banded every year. Last year, our best year, we
caught 150 owls. About 4% of the birds caught by banding stations near the
southern end of migration are already banded. These banded and recaptured birds
provide a great deal of information about bird survival and migration patterns.
Thus, banding helps us understand birds. Recently, I began taking a drop of
blood for analyses of blood parasites and the DNA of these parasites, a very
poorly known area of study. The science is interesting, while the mystery and
thrill of finding a bird in the net sure helps the motivation.
Saw-whets migrate through here from late Sep. to mid-November. There is a peak
in migration from about 10 October to 25 October. The number of birds that fly
on any given night is weather controlled. In the entire 50 day duration of some
movement, there are 15-20 nights when weather conditions are favorable and we
open the nets.
First Work Day - clear net lines, put up poles and nets. Sat., 30 Sep.,
1:00-4:30 (flexible). Bring shears or trimmers for shrubbery, stay for pot luck.
Sun., 1 Oct., First banding night: start time uncertain dependent on work
left to set up nets. Hopefully, we can start at 6:00 but we may have to start
earlier if there is a lot of work left.
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