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Owl Study Begins

Persistence pays off??

by Dan Hartman
March 5, 2021

     Monday, March 1st

     As Cindy and I head out for opening night, I'm reminded of my first night out twelve years ago.  At my first stop of my first night of owl study ever, I moved away from my car in pitch dark to listen when two small shapes about wolverine size loped by about ten feet in front of me.  Switching on my flashlight, I realized they were grizzly cubs and mom was standing twenty feet away starting at me.

     Anyway, the night is clear and wind still.  18 degrees is a bit chilly, but I've noticed temperature has very little to do with owls calling.  Snow depth at 33 inches is really about average.

     At listening Post #1 we parked and stepped out to listen.  The Big Dipper twinkled low to the East.  Orion hung directly overhead.  Thousands of stars filled the spaces inbetween.

     We stood quietly listening.  (Usually 3-5 minutes per post)

     Nothing.

     On to Post #1.5, then Post #2.  Post #3. Post #3.5.  Post #4.  We're half done and have heard only silence.

     Now on to the upper half.  Post #5, Post#6, then Post#7 and we're back at our cabin which is Post #8.  Nothing here.  A flying squirrel peers at us near our back door.

     Not a good start to what really promised to be a good season.  Well, I've had zeros before.

     March 2nd.

     Post #1, Post #1.5 and Post #2 were silent.  The wind picked up and wiped out the rest of the run.

     March 3rd.

     You could not ask for a better night, no wind, 22 degrees, clear as a bell.  A fox crossed the road in our headlights, then another.  Probably a mated pair.

     Post #1 you could hear a pin drop.  No owls.  Not even a horned.  Post #1.5, I call it that because it's been a consistantly good listening post since day one.  Because it's a mile from Posts #1 and #2, I can potentially hear owls singing from those locations which is a drawback.

     Nothing.  This is really disappointing.

     Post #2  This is where I found my first nest in 2010.

     Nothing.

     Post #3  and Post #3.5 where I located a nest in 2015.

     Nothing.

     Post #4, #5, #6 and #7.

     Nothing.

     Back at the cabin, Post #8.

     Nothing.

     I decided to take a night off after we went to town on March 4th.  But a pygmy owl called right below our cabin just before dark.  The wind was still and it was a warm 25 degrees.  Cindy was game so we left the cabin at 8PM.  I mean we can't get shut out four nights in a row!

     I know you're thinking "persistence finally pays off". But once again we were handed a big zero.

     I haven't had a beginning like this since 2011.  That year never got started as the snow level grew to five feet.

     What really hurts the most is the perfect weather we're wasting.  I mean it could get windy for a week straight.

     There's always something out there to give you hope if you look for it.  In 2015 probably my best owl year ever, I noticed conditions were very simular to this year.  (That is the year I re-created for my Owl Summer video.) Snow level was 36 inches, my first three nights out, the 1st, 4th and 6th netted only four songs heard.

     Then on March 8th I got seven calls and the rest of the season was amazing.

     Time will tell.


Photos

View slide show

PYGMY OWL

OWL SUMMER VIDEO




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