Friday, September 27, 2013

Project Owlnet Report - 2012

Last year (2012) the World Bird Sanctuary’s Bird Banding Team embarked on a new and exciting project!  Following is team leader Linda Tossing’s report on the outcome of this new venture.
“World Bird Sanctuary – Project Owlnet – 2012
Aspen - WBS's resident Saw-whet Owl
“After visiting a Northern Saw-whet Owl (NSWO) banding station in Omaha, Nebraska during the 2012 Inland Bird Banding Association’s conference in Omaha, NE, the World Bird Sanctuary’s Banding Team asked the following questions:
“1.    Are there NSWOs in St. Louis, MO, especially in the Meramec River Valley? 
“2.    When do they migrate through? 
“3.    Are there NSWOs that winter in the valley?
“So we set out to answer some of these questions!   First thing we did was to get some training!  Representatives from the WBS Banding Team went to visit Dana Ripper and Ethan Duke of the Missouri River Bird Observatory, Marshall, MO.  We spent two nights with Dana and Ethan learning where to place nets, what equipment we needed, the procedures to band the NSWOs and what records to keep.  In the process, we banded 6 NSWO’s.   We also learned how much the weather impacted the results, and the importance of the wind direction!
“So the team came back and started conducting research.  We joined Project Owlnet, which is an organization that works to monitor owl population trends by mist netting and by banding migrating owls, especially Northern Saw-whet Owls.  The results are compiled and used to determine when and where these migrant owls are moving. 
“Along with WBS, there are two other banding stations in Missouri which are participating in the Project Owlnet - Missouri State University – West Plains (MSU-WP) operates one in St. Joseph and the Missouri River Bird Observatory (MRBO) has one in Marshall.  With our participation, we have the western, mid-state and eastern parts of the state covered.
“Based on information from Project Owlnet, we developed our plan!   We determined what was needed for equipment and then started collecting items such as special nets, a caller that played the male Saw-whet’s call, banding pliers, black light and bands!  We used the funds from a recent Inland Bird Banding Association Grant to purchase some of the equipment.  Cabela’s generously donated the caller. Then we started writing our banding protocols for the project (which were finalized at the end of the project!).   
“A north-facing site on a ridge overlooking the Meramec River was selected.  This site had some understory critical for migrating owls.   We set up 5 nets with the caller that continuously broadcasted the male Saw-whet call.
“The schedule was set to start November 12 and run nets 5 nights a week until December 9.  We would have 23 days of banding sessions in the required 30 day period.  “We started our sessions ½ hour after sunset and kept the nets open for 4 hours. Our first night of banding was Monday, November 12 and our first check of the nets at 6:13 PM brought us our first owl!  We were very pleased that we ended the night with 2 owls – we couldn’t believe our good luck!
“So, we answered our first question! – Are there Saw-whets in St. Louis, MO, in the Meramec River Valley?   During our banding sessions, we captured owls on November 12, 13 and the 25 - a total of 7 new birds and 1 that we had previously captured (otherwise known as a recapture in banding lingo).  We learned that weather did indeed drive our results.  We had birds on nights with northern winds and colder temperatures. 
“After November 25, we had no more owls.  Given the MRBO and MWSU’s results, we feel we missed the early part of the migration (the answer to our second question).  We can suppose the terrain and understory of our banding site is not appropriate for wintering grounds (our third question).  Northern Saw-whet Owls prefer coniferous trees for winter cover.     However, more research is needed for conclusions. For 2013 we are adjusting our schedule and will start earlier!  We look forward to this year’s results!”


Jen R. said...

I figured being further south than us (i.e., Stevens Point, WI), you'd start much later, but I was surprised to read just how much later! For comparison, our season runs from 23 Sept - 10 November. We peak in mid-October and owls are essentially just trickling in at the beginning and end of the season, so I feel we have pretty comprehensive coverage of the migration window. When are you starting this year, and do you know when the other MO stations generally begin their seasons? Just curious.

Congrats on the successful netting season, and here's hoping for another good year for you guys!

- Fellow NSWO/ raptor bander & former WBS "wintern" :)

Photog said...

Thank you for your interest! When evaluating 2012's results and reviewing what World Bird Sanctuary (WBS), the Missouri River Bird Observatory (MRBO) in Marshall, MO and Missouri Western State University (MWSU) in St. Joseph, MO had during last year, we agreed the best time to start was around Oct. 21. MRBO and MWSU are a little north of us in central and western Missouri, so we expect that they should get owls before we do.
Time will tell! Again thanks for your comments!

Linda C. Tossing
WBS Field Studies Bird Banding Coordinator