[Fwd] Long-eared Owl banding
- 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).
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;
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.