"Owl" be seeing you ! November 14, 2007
One of the perks at the upcoming Ohio Bird Conservation Symposium is a trip to see Saw-whet Owl banders at work. The great folks banding owls in Chillicothe have been featured on Jim McCormac's blog several times. Part of an ongoing project, Owlnet, is a group of bird banders dedicated to learning more about Northern Saw-whet Owls and their migrations. The one in the photo was the 91st owl banded so far this year!
This work is fascinating and the little owls are so cute even a non-birder would have to smile. Weighing no more than a plastic CD case, these birds travel amazing distances during their winter peregrinations.
But what does this have to do with plants? Everything! Once again, it is all related. The past years of owl banding have produce limited results, capturing relatively modest numbers of birds. However, this year- an irruption year for many boreal (Canadian forest) species- has been attributed by many to the failure of the nut crops. Mice and voles feed upon seeds, and these owls feed upon the fuzzy seed-o-philes. So not only are the seed-eating birds affected by nut crop failure, birds of prey are impacted a well. As Elton John would say- "Circle of Life".
Here is a portion of the report from Ontario Field Ornithologist:
Northern Saw-whet Owl numbers are linked to red-backed voles (a forest vole) in Ontario. There is the possibility that this vole could decline soon because it often cycles with deer mice. The huge population of deer mice in central Ontario is declining rapidly now because of poor seed crops this summer, particularly sugar maple samaras, which they store for the winter. If red-backed vole numbers decline as they often do in association with deer mice, there will be a strong flight of Northern Saw-whet Owls this fall.
Be on the look-out in pines and hemlocks, their favorite perching places during the day. Birding for Saw-whets takes a keen eye as they are extremely hard to locate during their visits to Ohio, but an exciting find for the lucky few.