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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Debbie Beer

November 3, 2012
Saw-whet Owl Banding at Hidden Valley, PA

Leader: Debbie Beer

DVOC's annual trek up to the Saw-whet Owl Banding Station is always a treat, and this year was no exception. Our group of 14 members and friends met at Hidden Valley promptly at 6:30 PM, under a partly cloudy evening, with the sky showing the last lingering hues of pink and purple. The banding team of volunteers and interns set up equipment as we settled ourselves inside the unheated but comfortably rustic "chateau." Bander and DVOC member Deborah Danila welcomed us warmly, and provided a great introduction to the background and process of banding Saw-whet Owls along the Kittatiny Mountain Ridge. Under the leadership of Scott Weidensaul, three stations operate 7-nights a week throughout the Autumn banding season, located along the mountain ridges. This year, Scott is also working with interns to capture Saw-whets in different locations, hoping to learn more about the owls' migration, and how often they may stray from ridge-top routes.

Saw-whet Owl populations are cyclical, and as predicted, this year was showing high numbers at many stations. We learned that there had been a bumper crop of voles up in the owls' northern breeding grounds, which meant a high rate of nesting success. While adult males are thought to stay on territory, the abundance of juveniles are forced to disperse more widely, bringing more birds down into our region. Our first net-check came up empty, but did not dampen our anticipation for a successful night. Indeed, an hour later, one owl was caught, much to the delight of our camera-crazy group! The bird was processed slowly, as we asked many questions and took countless photos - we were the DVOC Owl Paparazzi! Soon it was time for another net check, which produced 2 more owls, and many more photos. All the owls were adopted, some more than once, in support of the Ned Smith Nature Center which sponsors the Saw-whet Owl Banding Project. We left after the 11 PM net check was empty, promising to return again next year for up-close views of these adorable Saw-whet Owls!

Photos by Adrian Binns