Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Saw - Whet Owls

I was graced with the pleasure to go trap owls. 

I had no idea what to expect, but I had pictured giant raptor-like birds that would tear my head off if I got too close or looked them in the eyes. 

Instead, I was met by a group of field biologists living out their dreams of one on one contact with owls. Their home, a hillside cabin in the Bitterroot Valley, and working out of small campers on different trapping sites. A site on the river bottom, one far up on a ridge. 

Our field guide Madi Mcconnell brought us to the ridge site. With few owls trapped in this area recently we were hopeful to catch just one Saw-whet.  

We caught 9.  

I can't thank her enough for showing me something I will remember forever. What a beautiful bird, and an even more memorable experience.

Madi Mcconnell:

Northern saw-whet owls are a small cavity nesting owl inhabiting mixed coniferous and deciduous woods. They hunt at night for insects and small mammals. Their range is widespread throughout North America encompassing nearly all of the lower 48, the south half of Canada's southern provinces, the west coast into southern Alaska, and the Cordillera through Mexico. 

Because of the saw-whet's nocturnal nature, they are not commonly seen, and little is known about their migratory behavior. However in the fall, these birds may be migrating through the Bitterroot more commonly than expected. Many northern saw-whets will very likely even choose the Bitterroot as their overwintering grounds. A very successful trapping season has excited a lot of interest in this little known phenomenon of nocturnal owl migration, and we hope to learn a lot more about this fascinating and lovable little bird through recaptures and tracking in years to come.