Soundtrack of the night

Owl banding – Lowville

Night of Oct. 23/24, 2022

~by Sam Lewis

What an interesting night this was. Naturally, for any inaugural day for any project – things can be a bit rough around the edges. And oh my – were things rough. Starting off at half past 7, we were scrambling around to find the size 4short bands needed for Saw Whets, which were concealed in an incredibly obscure location – which took over 20 minutes. We were also planning to set up a new owl net – which, didn’t go as planned. The net exhibited some extraordinary entanglement and suffice to say, we gave up on it. By the time we finished bothering with the net, it was time to check the rest of our nets. The following several hours exhibited some really nice owl numbers given the overall migration conditions. In total, we banded 14 Northern Saw Whet Owls.

First Northern Saw-whet Owl of 2022!

Aliya with one of the first owls of the 2022 fall season

Curiously all of the owls banded today were either hatch year or after second year birds, no definitive second year birds. Wing of an after second year bird pictured here.

Its always interesting how each and every individual has a unique expression on them

One notable thing about the petite valley that our site is located in, is that our area is absolutely littered with raccoons and coyotes, though they don’t pose a threat, they can be fairly startling at times: for instance I was spooked by raccoons on three separate occasions – twice on the way in and once on the way out – what made the last one particularly frightening was that, about twenty minutes prior the coyotes were going absolutely ballistic (screaming, howling, etc.) – with the most closest pack about 150 metres east of the site, near the trail back to Guelph Line. But such is life owling at night!


Night of Oct. 25/26, 2022

~ by Sam Lewis & Ashley Jensen

Tuesday night proved to be an unusually warm night which was very pleasant, but was also very slow as far as catching owls was concerned. On the positive side we finally got the owl net untangled and set up! And, despite the incredibly slow night owl banding (we didn’t catch anything until 22:30) – we eventually caught our resident screech owl which was first banded 363 days prior, on October 27 2021. Aside from that, we only caught one Northern Saw Whet Owl – which was banded earlier this week. And finally, near the end of the night a second, unbanded Eastern Screech Owl was caught. This turned out to be the only bird banded for the night, and likely means we have now banded both of the screech owl pair that claim our banding site as their territory. Eastern Screech Owls are not migratory like some other owl species (for example Saw whets), so they will defend the same territory pretty much year-round.

1 Eastern Screech-Owl

1 Eastern Screech-Owl
1 Northern Saw-whet Owl

Our resident Screech Owl one year ago (in fall 2021)

Current photo of our resident screech

Both screech owls were aged as after-hatch-year. I found the differences slightly easier to see on the underside of the wing. If you look in the mid-secondaries there’s a couple fresher (slightly pinkish) feathers. The two very outer primaries are also fresher. Seeing two different ages of feathers means this bird must be over a year old, at minimum.

Second screech owl of the night. Although neither of the birds had measurements in the range that would allow us to definitively determine gender, this was the smaller owl of the pair so in all likelihood, this is the male.

Between multiple owl species calling and coyotes howling it sure can give off a spooky vibe out here, but this is the soundtrack of the night, and we should all appreciate it’s beauty.

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