I took the 2:10am ferry to Bainbridge Island this morning to meet Jamie Acker and six other participants for an owling fieldtrip that spanned the entire island and lasted until dawn. Jamie has banded Saw-whet Owls on Bainbridge for well over a decade, and is very knowledgeable about the habits and natural history of all of the owls on the island.
We stopped at numerous spots, watching and listening to Saw-whets, Barred Owls, and Great Horned Owls. It was thrilling to see these nocturnal raptors up close in their own habitat. Of course, what blog post of mine about owls would be complete without some ridiculously bad owl photos (hey, it was dark!). Here’s a Barred Owl, a relatively large owl at nearly two feet long and close to two pounds:
And the smallest owl we saw this morning, a Saw-whet Owl, which is about 8 inches long and weighs in at a little less than 3 ounces (about 25% less than the weight of the new iPhone).
Ya, not great photos, I know. But we had great looks at many of these little hooters.
Another of the field trip participants, Scott Ramos, shot some video of owls that you can watch on youtube. Barred Owls actually EAT Saw-whets, which is problematic if you are trying to band the little owls when Barred Owls are close at hand. Jamie combats this problem by feeding the Barred Owls mice while he is banding. This keeps them busy long enough for the little Saw-whets to get away safely. You can watch Jamie feeding the Barred Owls on our trip here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfRuzimr1WQ – if you listen closely, you can hear me say “whoa-ho-ho!” about 25 seconds into the video.
If you are interested in taking an owling field trip of your own, it’s easy. This trip was organized by the WOS, the Washington Ornithological Society. Anyone can join the WOS for only $25 a year – and membership entitles you to go on the many awesome field trips. The WOS also has an amazing annual conference with speakers, workshops, and more field trips. You can find more information at their website: http://www.wos.org
Your local Audubon Society also offers field trips, including owling. Check out Seattle Audubon (http://www.seattleaudubon.org/sas) or East Lake Audubon (http://eastsideaudubon.org) to learn about upcoming field trips, classes, and events.