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DVOC Field Trip Report

Saturday November 11, 2006
SAW-WHET OWL BANDING AT HIDDEN VALLEY, PA.

Report by Adrian Binns
Pictures by Adrian Binns

Click here for pictures by Martin Dellwo

15 of us joined banders Art, Rosemary and George at the Hidden Valley Banding Station for a very pleasant evening that produced 4 Saw-whets.

Beginning in October and running through Thanksgiving this is one of 3 banding stations along the Kittitany Ridge that has opened its nets each fall since 1997 as they continue their research as part of the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art into Saw-whet Owls. Amongst the new projects they are working on: Are parents and offspring migrating together? Are siblings migrating together? After being banded and being in light, how long is it before they regain their night vision? They are also doing radio telemetry, tracking them to roost sites to figure where they are roosting and how long they are staying in a particular area?

To date the season has been very slow with only 120 owls banded between these 3 sites. Migration seemed to begin about 2 ½ weeks late, likely because of a combination of warm weather and abundance of food in their normal northern range.

Each of the birds captured in the nets located a couple of hundreds up the hill behind the lodge was brought back to the lodge and the banding table where the date and time was recorded; it was weighed; aged by checking the flight feathers for old ones - most of the birds banded are hatch year birds (HY) meaning that they were born this year; had its bill, wing, alula and tail length measured; was banded; checked for the amount of fat it was carrying; the keel to feel how skinny it is; the eye color (measured a paint sample card) as a study to see if it correlates with ages – the darker the older; the amount of white around the face and on the throat, and finally taking a breast feather sample to check the relationship between those birds caught at the same time.

Of the 4 birds banded this evening, 2 were hatch year birds and the other 2 were after hatch year (AHY), meaning that they were at least in their second year. We also found out that our final bird had been already banded, having been banded here at Hidden Valley 6 days early on November 5 and again the next night! Needless to say this one knew the routine and was very co-operative.

Everyone was most generous with their support of the Saw-whet Owl Research Program with all the birds being ‘adopted’. Photos were taken with each of their ‘birds’ and we watched as they were each released into the woods after being processed.

Click on a thumbnail for a larger image.

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