For our fourth ornithology field trip, we went too Ross County at a place called the Buzzerd’s Roost, a place very close to where I did an internship over the last summer for bird work- Tar Hallow. We were to meet up with Kelly Williams-seig, a master bird bander and the one who directed me during the Tar Hollow internship. Instead of going collecting data on warbler nesting sites and territories, however, we were to be studying the very cool Saw-Whet owl. I am very interested in owls, so I was very excited.
It was a Saturday evening, and although we were missing the customary Athens, OH Halloween celebrations, I was very excited to see some diverse birds close up. The skies were forecast, and we started off our adventure setting up mist nets in order to catch passerine birds. At first it seemed hopeless as we all scattered through the forest in order scare the birds into the nests, without luck. However, we decided to set up some more, and Kelly asked for volunteers to come with her to help out. I was one of the group that decided to go, and we walked a bit down the road to undo already set up nets.
Right after we set them up, we had immediate success. Four tufted titmice were caught all within moments of each other, and Kelly and Dr. Miles went about undoing them from the mesh wiring. This was a long process that had to be done very carefully, as the birds were delicate. While we all gathered around them to watch the freeing process, a sharp-shinned hawk flew into the net near one of the waiting titmouse, obviously trying to find a mean. We caught a bird and used it as bait to catch a hawk!
After freeing them all and bagging them, they were brought back to the parking lot. It turned out that the rest of the class caught birds as well, released by Susan herself. They caught: a hermit thrush, a female American goldfinch, and male and female Northern Cardinals. We recorded various aspects about them including: amount of fat, the wing chord, mass, species, sex, age, and the band number. They were then ready to be released, and the proper way to release the birds was demonstrated, a method called the bander’s grip, which involved placing two fingers on the base of the skull on both sides of the bird’s head.
We then went to go up the road to a station to eat dinner, and while we ate Josh read to us out of a children’s book called “So what, Saw-Whet?” Before this however, a owling call was set in place to get the actual Saw-Whets to fly into the nets. We would wait on periods of 45 minutes at the house, then go check on both of the nests for owls. We tried, 3 different times, however there was no luck on capturing the elusive Saw-Whet.