04-14-14 Owl Field Note

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04-14-14 Owl Field Note

April 14, 2014

Kate Stone and William Blake recount their recent searches for, and capture of, Northern Pygmy-owls.

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Kate Stone William Blake Owl Field Note 4/11/14

Our owl projects are in full swing with the peak of the owl breeding season. In the past two weeks, we spent most of our time searching for and attempting to capture Northern Pygmy-owls.

We went to great lengths to search for pygmy-owls, including forging through knee-high snow on South Baldy Ridge.

William found one territorial owl on the slopes of West Baldy Ridge. On the day he detected it, it captured and ate a vole right in front of him.

We used a combination of methods in our attempts to capture the owls. Here William sets up a mist net with a pygmy-owl decoy and an audio lure in hopes of making the target owl territorially aggressive. Though annoyed, the pygmy-owl did not approach the decoy close enough for capture.

This particular owl on the slopes of West Baldy Ridge has proved both entertaining and frustrating. We attempted its capture three times without success. In this instance, we saw it regurgitate a pellet right in front of us. We retrieved the pellet afterwards.

The pygmy-owl went for our mice lures but ended up bouncing off of the trap and under the mist nets placed nearby. Then it sat in this tree, staring at us and intermittently hooting for more than an hour.

We had better luck capturing this pygmy-owl in Upper Woodchuck. It went both for our mouse bait and the decoy owl. We eventually captured it in a mist net.

William wore this shirt to intimidate the small owl.

We had a good view of the false eyes on the back of the pygmy-owl’s head.

We attached a tiny radio transmitter to the owl’s back, using a backpack harness.

The pygmy-owl gave us the stink eye after we released it.

One day later, William found the pygmy-owl using this mistletoe-rich forest in the Woodchuck subdivision.

The owl has stayed in the Woodchuck subdivision since its release. The initial relocations seemed close together and we worried that the owl had pulled off the transmitter. However, William located the owl itself on 4/9, and then tracked it to a new location on 4/11. We have contacted the various landowners in the area for permission to access their land to track the owl. For now, we are doing our best from the road.

The forest used by this pygmy-owl contains dense clumps of mistletoe. The tree William spotted it in contained mistletoe, though the owl perched on a lower branch (inset).

We bumped a Great Horned Owl from this nest while searching for Long-eared Owls. The owls had cached at least two voles on the side of the nest.

A female Long-eared Owl incubates five eggs. Owls used this same nest last year.

In the next two weeks we plan to continue our search for Long-eared Owl nests and will hopefully deploy several more transmitters on pygmy-owls.

Previous Field Note

04-11-14 Bird Field Note