The weather was looking perfect for catching Northern Saw-whet Owls: cold (going down to -5 C), no wind, and clear (the stars actually twinkled high overhead). But sometimes in the banding game, actuality doesn’t necessarily follow theory. Tonight, though, it did. We had our best “owl” night since we started to try to catch them in the Fall of last year – we caught and banded 14!!
The trek down to the nets is fraught with anticipation: will we find one or not. The walk is made in darkness, a light would only interfere with one’s night vision and , besides, it’s nice to see the stars. But when you approach the nets and turn on your headlamp…..and the excitement when you see that ball of feathers in the net!
Back at the lab it’s business as usual – band, wing measurement, weight, sex determinatin based on the previous two measurements. The heavily-feathered leg is much different than the bare leg of a passerine.
The bird’s age can be determined by the pattern of new and old feathers in the wing. A black light is a great help in determining this (I apologize for the fuzziness of this picture – still trying to work the bugs out of this new camera….).
When it’s completely “processed” it’s time to show it off and then…..return it to the night.
Banding both night and day birds is grueling work – you snatch opportunities for sleep wherever and whenever you can.