2013 has been a poor fall for Saw-whet Owl banding at the Indiana Dunes State Park. Saw-whets ride a usual 4 year cycle of boom vs. bust. Much of this population cycle can be traced back to the prey that they are eating. Small deer or white-footed mice make up a large percentage of their diet and a crash in their population can have drastic effects to the breeding success from one year to another.
The 2013 fall banding season was never expected to be that great. Our volunteers at the state park were bracing for some low numbers and many owl-less nights. We didn’t expect it to be the worst year ever! Needless to say, we never really were up too late and aren’t as sleep deprived and grumpy as we normally are at this point in the season! We still had some great highlights though.
Our first Saw-whet Owl was captured on October 13. An adult female bird, showing typical pattern for a second year bird. After that, birds were slow to come in and by Halloween weekend we had only banded 5 birds. To date we’ve had 14 captures, with the majority coming in November. The last few days have been good with 1-3 birds on each of the ideal nights.
New in 2013 was our text alert program. Designed for folks within 25 minutes of the park, it allowed viewers to rush to the park to watch one of our owls get banded. This was better than sitting long hours in the building hoping for an owl. Some 50+ families used it this fall to get notified of owls being captured at the net. We also turned back on our live webstreaming service to band any owl that was texted. So folks who didn’t live nearby could even get the text and simply turn on their computer. Our web stream address is www.webinar.in.gov/dnrdunesnc. It’s only on when we’re banding an owl though.
With the saw-whet season coming to a close, it will be another year before we’re offered swets in the hand! But you still have a few more nights to possibly see us band an owl. If weather conditions hold, November 15, 16, and 17 will be banding nights, and possibly November 20/21, after the park deer reductions. Come on out and see an owl! While you’re at it, adopt an owl too! For $25 you’ll get a cool certificate with a photo of your owl and you’ll be email notified if the owl is ever recaptured again. They make great Christmas presents too!