Posts Tagged ‘saw-whet owl’

Owl Prowl

This morning I went on Saw Mill River Audubon‘s Owl Prowl. We met Trudy Battaly and Drew Panko, owl researchers, at Pelham Bay Park. They are conducting research on Saw-whet Owl biology, and as a part of that they outfit owls with 1.8-gram radio transmitters. We were lucky enough to be able to use Drew and Trudy’s telemetry antennas to track down a few individuals.

The Northern Saw-whet Owl is a small member of the group of North American owls, and it is a species that nests in Canada and some of the northern lower 48, as well as at higher altitudes in some Western states, and moves south during the winter. Our first Saw-whet had been found by Drew and Trudy before we even arrived, and it was almost too easy, perched towards the top of a nearby shrub.

Our first Saw-whet.

Another view.

We then piled into the cars and headed to our next owl location, a couple minutes down the road. As soon as the antennas were switched on we started receiving a signal from the owl’s transmitter, albeit a faint one. Following the signal, we entered a pine grove. I was able to operate one of the antennas, but after a while wasn’t getting very far. Of course, it turns out I was way off, and after Trudy took over we headed out of the grove. My toes were numb, but I pressed on, (more…)


Read Full Post »

Great Meadows Marsh, an IBA (Important Bird Area).

This morning, lured by the prospect of two possible nemesis lifers, Lapland Longspur and Northern Saw-whet Owl, I joined Eamon, Ryan, and some others on a trip to Stratford, CT lead by Brian O’Toole. The high was predicted to be in the mid-20s with winds less than 15 mph, which was quite a contrast from last week’s bad weather birding. We left the Audubon Center in Greenwich a bit after 9 am, and arrived at our first stop, Great Meadows Marsh, at 10.

We walked across railroad tracks and into the park, reaching the first boardwalk overlook in a couple minutes. This looked out over a section of marsh and appeared pretty barren. Soon, however, two Northern Harriers were spotted flying low over the tall grasses. One was a male, termed a “gray ghost” because of its light gray coloration (compared to the rust-colored female and juvenile). We soon found two Red-tailed Hawks watching the action from a tree, as well as another hawk of the same genus (buteo). Because of the habitat and time of year it was at first called a Rough-legged, an irruptive grassland hawk that breeds much farther north in the continent, but we soon realized it was actually an immature Red-shouldered Hawk, more uncommon in winter. Continuing down the trail, we ran into a group of American Tree Sparrows and another Harrier, as well as some Hooded Mergansers. A Snowy Owl had been reported not too many days before, but we were not lucky enough to run into it. On to the next spot!

A female Northern Harrier making a beeline for the other side of the marsh.

After stopping at a spot that had produced many birds the last time I was there (Jan ’09), but was lacking this time around, we headed to Long Beach, the other main attraction of Stratford birding. This was were I was hoping to find Lapland Longspur, a bird that had eluded me for several winters. Back at the marsh we ran into a man who said he had seen them earlier in the morning, further raising my hopes. After we parked in the parking lot, a quick scan of the Sound revealed not much more than a few Common Goldeneye and 2 Red-breasted Mergansers. Brian led us down the path toward a pair of cedars where that same man had apparently seen an Orange-crowned Warbler. As we walked, the wind picked up and got to a point that was almost comparable to that of last Sunday. The longspur had been seen around the parking lot, so it wasn’t looking too good for…

“What’s that?”

A few small birds appeared to our right, rummaging through the leaf litter on the beach.

“Longspur!” said Brian. (more…)

Read Full Post »