Notes from the Field

This section has a few field notes from 2009.

25 apr 09 - Out banding young with Megan and Christina (undergrads getting some research credit hours). First stop was the Valencia Ct. nest, where we have a camera recording. On hand for the banding were about 30 5th graders from Emily Reitz's class at Trinity School and a bunch of parents. 2 young banded. They'll be out of the box soon. They'd probably already have left if there were a convenient branch close to the box entrance. As it is, they've got quite a ways to fly to the next perch.

     Next stop was Percy's nest box, where we're streaming to Cornell's NestCam page.  We haven't had an accurate head count yet because the young are tucked back into a corner of the nestbox where we can't see them. I climbed up to the box and found that both eggs had indeed hatched. One of these young was 19 days old (hatch on the 5th, picture on the 24th). The big one is probably at least 2 days older than his sibling.
     While I was up there, I "redecorated" the box--putting some pine straw in the back of the box in an attempt (successful as it turned out) to move the birds a bit more into camera view.
     While I was in the box I took the time to make some measurements of feather growth. This will help us aging young in other boxes where we don't know the hatch date. The picture here is the older of the two young that Percy and the Mrs. are raising this year.

     We finished the day's field work at the Lansing Dr. nest box, where we banded two young about the same age as Percy's young. When I got to the level of the nest box, I got whacked in the shoulder by the female and would have taken a hit to the helmet if I hadn't seen Mom coming in and ducked.

22 apr 09
- A gorgeous spring day in North Carolina! Banding young with Lisa, James, and Brandon. First stop Reedy Creek Nature Preserve where we have two pairs in nest boxes. The young in Reedy III are getting pretty big, so we banded them today. All's well there, other than the nestcam that we can't get to work.

    As we were heading into town to band another boxful, I got a call from Carolina Raptor Center about a call they had from someone who had just found a baby owl on the ground. We were only 5 minutes away and headed in that direction, so the timing was perfect. As it turned out, this is where the Bay St. pair has moved. Their nest tree was cut down 2 years ago, and I didn't find where they'd gone to last year. So this was a nice bit of luck. The two young had left their nest cavity a couple of days before. It is not uncommon for young to make a mistake hopping from branch to branch, or to overestimate their flying capabilities and bite off more than they can chew in moving from one tree to another. They rarely injure themselves when they do hit the ground (unless they hit pavement) and can almost always just be put back up in tree. They're also remarkably adept and climbing back up a tree, using their beaks and claws to 'mountaineer' their way back to a safe branch. (We had an extra assistant at this nest--Colin, in whose back yard the Bay St. owls are now nesting.)
     After putting the "Bay St." young back up in a tree, we headed down to Thornridge, to check on two birds in a natural cavity nest. They were a bit small (less than 3 weeks) to band, so we decided we'd come back in a week to band them. 


9 mar 09 - Out with two students on this 80+ degree day. Bradford pears are a few more warm days from being in full bloom, white cherries are coming into flower, as are maples (some of which began flowering a week or more back), as were some forsythia.

      The Vernon nest has 2 eggs. They're using the American beech that they've used for several years. Female flushed when the peeperscope pole was halfway up the tree.

      Sterling, a bird radio-tagged the day after it left its nest in '07 is not in a nest cavity, as I had hoped, but roosting where he/she has been for many months

      Colony Rd. box - 2 eggs here. Female was incubating. There are a lot of sticks in the nest-left by squirrels. These birds evicted the squirrels and she found room for the eggs in the back corner of the box. Had the squirrels put in a few more sticks, the owls couldn't have used the box.

      QRE/George/Wilhamena We peeperscoped the cavity where we saw George deliver a mouse that we gave him a week or so ago. We thought that might have been the nest cavity. Nothing there. It looks like a classic cavity, but a finger of wood sticks up in the middle that would make incubation problematic. After finding the 'nest cavity' was not a nest cavity, I whistled George in (he is one of the birds that knows my whistle means free mice). He came over and after a while decided I wasn't going to give him any mice, so he flew up to the cavity we had come to check and pulled a half-eaten prey item out, which he proceeded to down for breakfast. (He cast up a pellet before flying up to his stash.) No sign of Wilhamena, so we'll have to come back again to locate the nest cavity. There are several possibilities, all of them really high, which wouldn't be surprising-this female has always liked the penthouse apartments.

      Eastover Rd box - There are 3 eggs in the box. The visit this evening was to count eggs and reposition the video camera we have in the back of the box. I drilled a larger hole in the back of the box and remounted the camera so it looks down a bit-catching only the lower part of the entrance. I got a solid 8-talon whack in the back from one of the adults. I had thought about not using the lacrosse helmet for this visit. I won't have that thought again when we come back to this nest!

      We left at 2015h. Both birds were present. They both cave the "cool" calls they use to check in on each other-It's the Barred Owl version of, "I'm here, where are you?" Female was back in the box no more than 10 minutes after we pulled the ladder down.

      It was a spectacular full-moon night, perfect for radio tracking, so I went over to Dilworth to try to locate the Berkeley nest. At 21:26h I found Bob up at the far end of Latta Park, almost exactly where I found him last time I tracked him. He led me on a loop that circled back to a large lawn at the west end of the park. As I approached the area I saw him fly up off the grass. 2144h He perched up in pine. He caught a mouse in the grass in front of me and headed back towards the park. I followed him about 500 m back to the nest box they used 2 years ago. As I approached I heard him giving the "hu-hu-huaw" call. After two minutes he flew closer to the box.

     He was about 5-7 m from the nest box. At this point the female started answering from the box. She then popped up in the entrance and continued answering with the "hu-hu-huaw" call. She threw in some begging calls as well. Then, just before flying over to Bob she gave a little chittery call that I've heard from Barred Owl nestcams but not from our birds. The box had been empty on 13 Feb so they laid sometime after that.



4 mar 09 - Temp-low 50s high 40s. No wind. 1720h Out tracking and nest checking with Lisa and James. Minnie roosting at the end of Sherwood (by QRW). Strongest signal about 3 houses up Sherwood. We didn't stop to get a better fix, but given the limited range of her transmitter (she must have chewed up the antenna), that's an accurate enough fix. Then we went over to Cumberland to scope Paulita's nest. She's in the same cavity as the last few years. As usual she just looked up at us when the camera peeked into her nest, so we know she's in the nest, but don't have an egg count. Next, we went to Dilworth East to check on the Ewing St. nest. They're in the same nest as the last few years. Mrs. Hootie was in the nest. We ran the peeperscope up and she looked out but once again wouldn't leave the nest, so we don't have an egg count. Lisa reports that I almost hit her in the head with the camera.
     Then we went to Heather La. box. The female was in the nest and flushed when I gently tapped on it with the camera. She's on 2 eggs. When she left the nest a group of crows mobbed her. One of them hit her on the back, pulling a few contour feathers.

      1823h -Next we stopped at Sunset Rd. to check on those birds. Mary said they had just heard the birds in the backyard. I whistled and whistled but no response. I then heard a Cooper's Hawk scolding. (There were 100+ Common Grackles up in the canopy). We saw the hawk go after one of the owls-actually hit it. It looks like the male Coopers-noticeably smaller than the owl. Tried whistling a bit more but no response. They were probably too distracted.

      1841h (sun's down and it's getting dark). We went to Geneva Ct. and set up in the vacant lot along Little Sugar Creek. I started broadcasting from the iPod playlist. A bird came in from across the creek at 1847h. It put up in the pines.

We put a mouse on a platform under it. 1855h or so he took the mouse and flew across the creek with it. He moved a few trees further away from the creek and ate the mouse. I put another mouse out where he could see it, but he didn't take it. He certainly isn't interested in feeding a mate, so maybe this is an unmated floater. Why, then, is he coming in to the broadcast? Maybe looking for a mate? But why then did I hear duetting here last week? Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice noted. 1910h we packed it in.

      2110h. Tracking Bob in Dilworth. I picked him up at the west end of Latta Park. I followed him along a path first south of the park and then west all the way almost to South Blvd! This may explain the times we've looked for him and couldn't find him. Didn't know he went all the way over there. Twice he attacked Robins in hedges. It was pretty clear that he was working hedges (hedging his bets?). On Lyndhurst, behind a big house I heard a Robin give a flight/distress call and saw Bob leaving the scene of the attempted murder. Then, way down Rennsaler I was about 2 m from him. He was perched on the edge of the roof of a tiny house, right by a big hedge. He flew away from me and I heard a Robin give a flight call again. Then I spotted him up on a light pole overlooking an empty parking lot north of Rennsaler. He caught a mouse in the middle of the parking lot. He took it quickly. I was hoping, of course, that he would take the mouse back to the Mrs., but he did not. So we still don't know where they're nesting this year. We peeperscoped the nest box they used two years ago on 13 Feb and found it empty. I walked back to my car hoping to catch him coming home, but I guess he figured it wasn't worth flying that far with just a little mouse. So we now know he will take black mice. Will he take a black mouse off a platform is the next question.

Wrapped it up at 2224h.