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[Fwd] Long-eared Owl banding

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  • Robert Johanson
    Dan Zazelenchuk sent me an interesting account of owl banding, and with his permission I have copied it below. He also sent several pictures of the Long-eared
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 8, 2005
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      Dan Zazelenchuk sent me an interesting account of owl banding, and
      with his permission I have copied it below. He also sent several
      pictures of the Long-eared Owls that are now in the photo section of
      the Saskbirds website (the pictures, not the owls).

      Robert Johanson

      PS Sig's farm is located east of Sask Landing on Lake Diefenbaker.


      February 3, 2005 Sig Jordheim farm +3C; calm to slight breeze;
      cloudy; no moon
      ASY male wt - 285g; w.c.-268mm; t.l.-135mm; condition - 6 out of 6; f.p.-50mm
      AHY female wt-374 g; w.c.-290mm; t.l.-151mm; condition - 4 out of 6;
      f.p.-59 mm
      AHY male wt-291g; w.c.-275mm; t.l.-145mm; condition - 5 out of 6; f.p.-50mm

      17:15 Mike Blom and I arrive at Sig's farm. It's absolutely beautiful
      out; so nice that Darryl is out in the yard, doing a couple of
      repairs to his combine. He hasn't seen any Long-eared Owls since the
      one I caught last Thursday, but he hasn't been looking for them,
      either. Mike and I start to put up the net, orienting it north and
      south, in between two rows of Manchurian Elm, north of the woodshop,
      about 100 m west of the house. Sig shows up a few minutes later. As
      we finish putting up the net, we can hear the Great Horned Owls
      already hooting in the field shelterbelts to the north; the measured
      sonorous hoots of the male and the higher pitched, faster cadence
      reply of the female. After setting up lawn chairs in the snowbank to
      the south of the net, checking the CD player, etc., we take a tour
      through the hedges. On our second pass through, Mike spots a LEOW on
      the east side of the house. It's good spotting since the owl is
      perfectly camouflaged, incredibly slender, and absolutely still,
      looking like a bark covered flashlight with little antennae. It's the
      only one we find, and I worry that the others have left.

      18:15 It's too light to start the LEOW call, and the GHOWs are still
      calling, so we head a mile up Sig's lane way to try for the bigger
      We can barely hear the GHOWs from there, but we put out the bownet
      and a pigeon, and play the territorial call. After two calls and
      about 10 minutes, all of a sudden both owls are on the ground to the
      east of us. It's dark enough that we can't see them and we can barely
      see the pigeon. After a couple of minutes, first the male and then
      the female fly across in front of us and land on the top of the
      Manchurian Elm shelterbelt to the west, north of us but a little
      south of the bownet. We can tell that the male sees the bownet
      (staring and bobbing its head up and down and side to side), but
      both owls are more concerned with finding the "intruder" who called.
      The male does go down and sit for a minute on the fence post by the
      pigeon, but the female never quits calling and soon he rejoins her on
      the topmost twigs of the trees to continue vocalizing. They put so
      much effort into each hoot that their tails rise with each call.
      While we are watching, a Short-eared Owl barks off to the east, and
      then comes in to strafe the bigger owls. It makes just one pass
      before heading off to the north (Darryl goes by about now on his way
      to Kyle, and the next day tells us that he saw seven SEOWs on and by
      the main road at the end of the lane way, but we don't see any more).
      We call the GHOWs back one more time, but they just aren't interested
      in food, so we pack up and head back to the yard.

      19:35 We been sitting watching the net for about 20 minutes. We can't
      quite make out the net, but our eyes are accustomed enough that we
      can see the outline of the player and I think we should see the
      motion of an owl if it does come in. The GHOWs have come near the
      yard and are replying to CD. They sound upset. We haven't waited
      long, but I'd expected immediate action like at home, so I'm already
      a little discouraged and wondering if the GHOWs are keeping the LEOWs
      away. Suddenly, the bell on the net starts to ring, and Mike is off
      like a shot (damn youthful reflexes). As I'm stumbling after Mike, I
      put the spotlight on the net and we can see an owl struggling in the
      second-from-bottom tier near the centre but a little closer to the
      north end of the net. Mike gets there first, grabs the net and owl,
      while the owl grabs him (gloves in his truck of no help to him). I
      stop the player, we determine that the owl came in from the west (we
      never saw a thing; we think we can see fairly well, but we don't see
      any of the owls hit the net), I extract the owl from Mike (not too
      much blood and all human) and the net, and we're in business. It's a
      male with some variation in the primaries, so we're calling it an ASY

      21:20 It took a while to band, measure and photograph the first owl.
      We've put it in one of the carrying boxes in the truck and have been
      playing the call for about 15 minutes. The bell rings again, and
      again Mike beats me to the net. I put the spotlight on the owl as we
      are running, and this might have been a mistake, because it might
      have helped the owl find its way out of the net. It had hit the net,
      unseen, from the east this time. It dodges Mike and flutters back to
      the east in between the two of us, but close enough that I could have
      scooped it if I'd had a hand net. Disappointing, but exciting.

      21:50 Sig and Mike have gone back to the house to warm up, but I'm
      uncharacteristically comfortable, so I keep watching the net. The
      GHOWs have continued to reply to the call, sometimes getting quite
      close, and I half expect the next encounter to be with one of them.
      However, five minutes ago, a LEOW has been calling from east,
      sounding like it's in the same area as the GHOWs. I'm watching the
      net as carefully as I can, but I don't see anything when the bells
      rings again. This time I flash the spotlight on for just an instant
      to locate the owl and then I run in the dark to the net. I grab the
      owl from the east side of the net, but it has come in from the west,
      so I have some maneuvering to do to get it out. The 60 mm net is too
      small for Long-eareds, as we found out earlier, but it does make it
      easy to extract them if they are caught. This one is juvenile female,
      noticeably larger and darker than the males.

      22.30 The GHOWs have moved away from the yard and we can hear that
      it's got a little windy, but it's calm inside the trees and the net
      is still. Sig is back at the house. The third owl comes in from the
      east (unseen) and hits the net in the same spot as the first owl.
      This time I get there in time to grab the owl (with gloves) so no
      injuries all around. It's a juvenile male, in better shape than the
      female but not quite as fat as the first one.

      We play the call until 11:30, but the adrenaline rush has gone, and
      we are fading fast, so we call it a night. Afterwards, I wish we had
      tried for saw-whets for a little while, but I can do that another
      time. Not bad, though; four Long-eared Owls banded in the heart of
      winter in the middle of short grass prairie. Who would have thought?

      On the way home, we count over forty deer mice on the six miles of
      Hwy 4, most dead, but quite a few alive and running around. Just one
      on our road ,though.

      Dan Zazelenchuk
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