Saturday, February 19, 2011

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Today was our monthly bird banding program at the Lowry Nature Center located in Carver Park Reserve near Victoria, Minnesota which is just west of the Twin Cities. The morning was cold and we just used Potter traps on the feeder stations but had a good session.

The totals were 20 birds of 3 species - Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch and Red-bellied Woodpecker. However the big surprise of the day was a very cooperative Northern Saw-whet Owl just down a trail from the nature center. A couple of the volunteers got to take some very nice photos without disturbing the little fellow. One volunteer also collected 6 pellets to see if she could figure out what the bird was feeding on.

From the number of pellets present and the amount of whitewash on the perching tree it is obvious the bird has been around for a while. It was in a classic location, sitting about 6 feet up in an Eastern Red Cedar along the edge of a hiking trail. I watched several people walk past the bird without having a clue it was there.

The last week around here was quite pleasant with temps in the 40s and lots of melting. We lost about 40% of our snow cover but it caused the surface of the snow to crust over. The owl must still be able to hunt even though I could walk on the surface of the snow and not break through (and I'm not the smallest person around, trust me).

We're going to remember this spot so that if we try to band migrating Saw-whets we will probably set up in this location. There is a winter storm warning out for tomorrow and Monday with a prediction of 8-14" of snow before it's over. Hopefully the little owl will hunker down and be just fine.

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