Saturday, October 24, 2009

Forbush Bird Club-Saw whet Owl Banding Uxbridge

The Forbush Bird Club had a bird trip last night out in Uxbridge, MA for Saw-whet Owl banding. This program is an all volunteer program and these people are usually out most nights banding these birds which is vital to understanding owl migration patterns which is difficult in itself under normal circumstances due to the fact that you normally don't see them out while birding or on the usual hawkwatches many birder participate in as migration takes place at night.

We were able to get two Saw-whet owls close to 9:30 PM when we went to go check the nets like you can see in the photo above. Look at how cute she is!

The volunteers carefully removed them from the netting and held them out for all of us to see and get some pictures.

Check out the fabulous wings on this owl. Such a stunning bird.

Next it was back to the make shift banding station which is out in the middle of the woods at a place they call "Lookout Rock" which was pretty darn impressive considering how primitive it was. They had everything they needed smack in the middle of the darkened woods. The first thing they do is weigh the Saw-whet Owl in the cloth bag it is in for protection. This is done on a normal kitchen scale. After they weigh that they take the owl out of the bag and then re-weigh the bag to get the actual true measurement of the owl.

Second year Saw-whet Owl
Then its onto the banding itself. The bands are so tiny it really gives you an idea of just how petite these adorable little birds are. Paul had shown us the bands for Barred Owls and the size comparison was very different which was cool to see.

The next stage of the process is to measure the wing of the owl. This is done to help determine the gender. They have some kind of mass body weight to wing span ratio that is almost always accurate. Interestingly enough they get more females than they do males. I was told this may have to do with the fact that they have recordings of a male Saw-whet Owl doing his mating call near the nets and the ladies want to check it out a little further. The males may avoid the mating call as they are not interested in starting a fight between another male while migrating. This is theory only and I am sure other variables come into play as well.

Now it was onto the next one. Don't you just love the face! It almost looks as if it was saying "why didn't I just move on instead of trying to check out who the dude was in the Forest".

First year Saw-whet Owl
Another interesting thing they do with the wing is to determine the age of the bird by the wings themselves. They do this by looking at the wings to check for molting patterns. If the wings are uniform in color and "fresh" then they are first year birds like the one above.

They also showed us the incredible ears this bird has. Check out the photo above. You can actually see its eyeball as well which is closer to the thumb. Such a well made machine this little puff ball is! Nature is absolutely incredible.

We also were able to get a good look at the talons of the bird. This adorable creature has 4 toes, two that face forward and two that face back. The fourth toe can actually move front or back for hunting and capturing prey and for perching.

And another shot so you can get a look at its fabulous tail!

We checked the nets one more time and look what we had. Another one!!! This was my favorite of them all as she would blink her eyes more and looked, well, more wise if you will. Come to find out she was the oldest of them all and the oldest bird they have banded this season thus far. Proving once again that with age comes wisdom!

I even got to hold her!! OMG, such an experience holding this tiny little owl in your hand. You can actually pet them too and I have NEVER in my life felt anything as soft as this little owl, softer than a kitten seriously! The Saw-whet Owls actually enjoy being pet and this one here would close her eyes as if almost in a trance as you pet her gorgeous little feathers.

A wonderful experience and something I will be doing again. This Uxbridge program will have more demos so for those of you interested in the New England area, keep your eyes on MassBird as they will announce future programs through there. I highly recommend it as not only is it cool to be out there with the Saw-whet Owls, but it's a lot of fun being out in the woods in the dark. Haven't done that since my teenage years and its much more enjoyable holding an owl in your hand vs. a Bud Light that's for sure! ;-)

A VERY special thanks to Strickland, Beth and Paul who put this all together. You do such great work for a very important cause. Take care all.


Marc said...

So cool!!! Looks like it was an incredible night.

A Scattering said...

No wonder you're beaming on that photo! How much fun was that?!

John said...

Those owls look really cute. I've accompanied an owl bander on a few net checks, but it was a bad year and we never found any owls while I was there.

Rich said...

Great job! Those experiences are wonderful.

Chad said...

Very neat! I was just put on the list here in Indiana as a Volunteer but I have not did it yet. I can't wait. After looking at your pictures I am ready to set up some dates.

NCmountainwoman said...

What an abolutely amazing experience that must have been. I've never thought about the difficulties in banding owls and other night birds. I'm so glad (and rather jealous) that you had such a great experience. What a night!

Andy said...

What an experience!

Larry said...

What a great experience-wonderful photos too.I'd like the experience of getting to hold that little owl too.

petersteel said...

that was nice photos i kike that .. great job... for more information regarding bird control,netting bird, bird repellents,pest bird control,spikes bird u can visit


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