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William Randolph



Sun, 22 Oct 2006 12:22:26 -0400

Was a somewhat disappointing night at the saw-whet nets; strong south
winds kept the owls away. The person operating this project is Steve Huy.
The project itself is a small part of a North American effort to monitor
saw-whet owl populations through migration study. It is created by a
biologist in Maryland, Dave Brinker, and Steve helps run it. They have
somewhere around 100 cooperators through the US and Canada. This
particular netting site is just starting its eleventh year of operation
but is facing difficulty as there is no shelter at the location.  Dave and
Steve are trying to raise money to build a shed to protect the volunteers
and visitors from the elements. Even on mild nights, the cold can be
draining as metabolisms drop when people should be sleeping. Steve said
that they have estimated the cost of a proper building to be around $1800
- $2000. Donations are needed and are tax deductible through the Maryland
Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Heritage Program. Contact
Dave Brinker of DNR at  to make a donation.

It is quite refreshing to see such a cooperative effort between a state
agency and citizen volunteers. I wish them much success and plan to return
to see some owls. I have photographed great-horned owls for many years,
but never have had such an opportunity to examine this diminutive species.

I must say Steve is a somewhat odd character. When I arrived I was shocked
to hear some loud music blaring from the woods.  I think he called it iggy
pop; and it is a grating style of music that I am sure would frighten most
parents. He was listening to it to keep his mind clear while he removed
the hundreds of leaves and small branches that had blown into his nets
during the wind on Friday. He actually kept count of the leaves (778).

Later we crawled around the forest floor on hands and knees to locate the
spiny American Chestnut. We found a few husks under some trees, but no
nuts. All the trees were suffering from the blight and he said they would
be dead by next year.

We listened a while for night migrants, but the wind increased through the
night making it impossible. We did, however, see some nice meteorites.

When dawn broke heard my first red-breasted nuthatches of the season. We
also saw a junco and both local kinglets.

Highlight of the night was when we heard a raven call from the valley at
dawn.  Steve did an amazing impression of the raven, which immediately
flew over us and squawked back. It didn't stop and he said it must be the
new member of the local pair as the older one usually lands on a nearby
tower or tree to exchange squawks for a while. He thinks they nest
somewhere on the mountain, although he hasn't found a nest. He'll be
searching for that soon enough so he can report it to the breeding bird

While my birding did not pan out  as hoped it was an interesting night and
I look forward to my next visit.


William Randolph
Keedysville, MD