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Field Trip Report
by Adrian Binns

November 8, 2003

Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art
Saw-whet Owl Banding Project

Wow. As luck would have it this trip could not have worked out any better. An absolutely stunning total lunar eclipse, with red moon, just happened to take place at the same time as the first batch of Saw-whets were bought into the 'chateau' for processing. Arriving around 6:30 the mist nets had already been installed and the tape was playing at regular intervals. The nets were checked 5 times during the course of the next 6 hours, returning 0, 5, 3, 5 and 2 birds upon each successive check.

Under the cover of the eclipse and at the peak time for Saw-whet migration along the Appalachians, our first success came when 5 birds were caught in the mist nets around 7:30 and by the end of the evening 15 had been banded and released, though one was a recapture from earlier in the evening. Excitement and enthusiasm ran high throughout the evening as Scott Weidensaul and Rosemary Spreha weighed, measured, aged and discussed each bird. All the birds banded were females. Are the males staying north? Are they venturing south later in the season? Are the females just finding this calling male irresistible? Are the males just not interested in him? Are the males frightened by his brazen late fall advertising? These are still unanswered questions that Scott's research is hoping to provide answers to. With the exception of two birds, all were hatch year adults, meaning they were born this year, this being determined by the even coloration of their flight feathers.

With eyes glued on our smallest eastern owl, everyone could not get enough of these adorable creatures, which as it turns out may not be as uncommon as we think. Like kids in a candy store, everyone's eyes and smiles were huge. We got to pet, stroke, hold, and have a bird perched on our shoulders, until they felt comfortable enough to fly away. We now know what makes women happy. Very happy!

Additional Photographs by Bert Filemyr
Additional Photographs by Jamie Stewart