After a few cancellations for one reason or another we finally got the team together on Tuesday, for our first Barn Owl banding outing for the year. Most of us began assembling at Don’s house around 11:00 PM. It turned out to be a larger group than I expected with a couple of National Park Rangers, Jessica and Maryjo joining us. Some folks decided on getting lunch before we started and that delayed us a bit. Eventually, we hit our first site around 12:30 PM. Here, our first box turned up empty; however, we did find a nest in the box and speculated on whether the source could have been a Wood Duck. Photos were taken and there will be follow-ups and reviews to determine the source of the nest. If it turns out to be a Wood Duck, it would be a record for that area as there is currently no data of a Wood Duck ever nesting there. Along the way to our second box, I spotted a Fowler's Toad moving along the edge of the trail and alerted Don, since my hands were full. Don, caught the toad and the group all got good looks; it was for some the first time looking at this type of toad. We eventually got to our second box, which turned up one un-banded adult Barn Owl with two eggs; we went through the process of quickly banding her and letting her get back to her eggs. By then, I had to leave and the team went on to the third box at that site. I rejoined the team around 3:00 PM and learned that the third box could not be accessed due to some fashion photo shoot that was taking place at the location. Good thing I was not there because I would have had a hard time not pressing for access to the location...but the fashion photographer had permits, so they probably would have won out. Anyway, the team had since then moved on to site number 2 and there they had one box with two adult Barn Owls, one which flew out before the nets could cover the entrance; the other adult was un-banded and so the team went through the process of banding that adult. I joined the team for the third site. Unfortunately, the weather began to turn for the worse and so we headed back to Don’s house (thanks to Meera for making a good call), to wait it out. During that time, the team got smaller as 4 people dropped out including the NPS rangers. We kept checking the weather conditions and around 6:00 PM, with the rain down to a drizzle, we headed back out with the team down to now 6 of us. At the third site, our first box had one un-banded Adult with 2 eggs, and we again went through the banding process. At box number 2 we had our first Owlets. Three lovely, healthy babies, who were old enough to be banded. After banding, we took some photos along with pellet samples and headed on to box 3. This was one of the boxes that Don, Doris and I had put up earlier in the year and I was eager to see if it had Owls. Unfortunately, the nest box was empty; the good news is, we found lots of pellets inside, which is a good sign that this box could in the future be occupied with a nesting pair. There was one more box at this site, but we passed on it because of the fading light and weather conditions and headed back to Don’s house. During our stint at site three, we came across several Herring Gull nests and chicks and had to be extremely careful not stepping on any nests. I am happy to report that the walk to and from the location was incident free. It was a good first outing and we are already looking at scheduling our second outing as quickly as we can during this breeding cycle. Please note that this post was written in a way, so as not to reveal the sites of the Owl boxes. This is for the protection of the Owls.
Tags: Barn Owl, Fowler's Toad, Wood Duck