Great first week of banding

Chris and I were out again on Tuesday and captured 6 birds, 5 new captures and one recapture.

I headed out Wednesday and was met with a faulty lure, after some unsuccessful troubleshooting I pressed Chris’ older but serviceable lure into service and opened the nets. Not the best start to the night but we were underway. I was joined by Margot Breiner who was visiting the station for the evening.

The first net check yielded a single recapture. Matt Gingerich joined us and we were greeted by 4 more birds on our second check. We were set to have a fairly slow night but on our 3rd net check we got to the nets and found 16 new Saw Whets! We turned off the lure to focus on getting birds out of the net and with the aid of Margot managed to get them all back into the station and banded. We turned the lure back on for another 30 minutes or so and captured 2 more new owls bringing our total for the night to 22 new birds and 1 recapture.

Matt with a Saw-whet

Thursday through Saturday another group was scheduled to be in the building we generally operate out of but Highland Retreat kindly allowed us the use of one of their A-frame cabins for those days. After settling in we had some great nights of banding. Cory Taylor came out to help us band and as of Sunday we are at 69 total birds for the season, 2 of which are foreign recaptures. One was banded in Pennsylvania in 2018 and the other was banded last year in Maryland.

Our stretch of good weather seems to be taking a turn to warmer and wetter but hopefully we continue to get good flights of birds!

Opening Night 2021

If last night is going to be an indicator for the season we are going to be busy.
Chris Lehman and I banded a total of 12 new Saw whets! We recaptured two of the birds later in the night so all told we pulled 14 out of the nets. We had mostly females but caught at least 2 males and an unknown. HY, AHY, SY, and ASY birds represented.

It looks like the rain will be clearing up today and we should have another good night for banding by this evening.

The first Saw whet of the season.

Ben Spory


Sorry for the missing reports the last few days. One evening was shortened because of a Barred Owl who needed to be persuaded to stay away from our nets. But last night Chris Lehman reports that 5 more owls were banded bringing the total to 111 for the year. That makes this an above average year but not as big a year as what was predicted earlier in the fall. They also netted two more owls that were already banded (foreign retraps, in banders’ lingo) bringing that total to at least 4. It looks like wind and rain may preclude banding tonight but there should be some more owls moving through during the next week or so.

Clair Mellinger

The Hershberger and Gingerich families plus a saw-whet. A file photo from the pre-pandemic era.

THIRTEEN MORE NEW OWLS ON SATURDAY, 14 NOVEMBER 2020 – maybe it wasn’t a Friday the 13th phenomenon

by Ben Spory

Saturday we had another solid night of banding. Weather at the station was clear with temperatures starting in the low 40’s and dropping into the upper 30’s. We captured 13 owls including 1 foreign recapture and 2 local recaptures. Of those birds we had 8 females and 5 indeterminate animals. No screech owl was heard but we stopped to appreciate a pack of coyotes that could be heard calling on a nearby ridge. Sunday through Tuesday had poor weather conditions and we did not attempt to open the station. It seems that the winds will have died down by this evening and we should have a shot at banding tonight. 

Nightly Total New Birds: 11

Foreign Recapture: 1

Local Recaptures: 2


Season Totals

Total Count:76; Foreign Recaptures: 3

Zig helps John Spahr band a saw-whet in 2018

Thirteen owls on Friday, 13 November 2020

by Ben Spory

13 owls for Friday the 13th…sort of
With 5 of us at the station tonight we were well equipped to handle plenty of birds, which was ideal, as we netted 12 new Saw whets. There was a mild breeze at the station tonight but it didn’t seem to be enough to inhibit the owls movement. Our “13th” owl was an animal that we initially captured early in the night only to catch it again at last net check, she was probably happy to have a much abbreviated visit with us the second go round. A screech owl was heard calling quite close to the nets during multiple checks but not seen, which was probably for the best. We also encountered the most vocal Saw whet that I believe any of us had heard. From un-netting to banding this bird vocalized it’s displeasure any time it was in hand with a near constant stream of abuse. It is quite possible that some of its distress was fueled by an awareness of the nearby screech owl, after evaluating the bird for injury at the nets and determining it to be in apparent good health we moved to the station and could determine no other immediate reason for its temperament. Tomorrow looks feasible for more banding but wind speeds may rise and result in an early closure while Sunday looks to be too windy.

Nightly Total New Birds: 12

Season Totals

Total Count: 65; Foreign Recaptures: 2

The aforementioned night hOWLer. 

Thursday, 12 November 2020 – Twelve (12) more saw-whets!

by Ben Spory

After two days of wind and rain Chris, Matt, and I had hopes that a fair number of bottled up Saw whets would be moving through the area and those hopes were validated. Conditions at the station were wet and the creek was up but fortunately there was no active precipitation and little wind. It was also darker with cloud cover at 100%, which may also contribute to increased movement due to increased concealment. We netted our new, single night, season high at 12 birds. With 7 birds in our second net check Chris made the apt comment that it was nice to have 3 of us at the station. I believe that most of our birds were female with 1 unknown. HY, AHY, and ASY were all present with no recaptures either local or foreign. Tonight should be decent banding weather but the weekend is looking to be a bit windy so we will have to play that by ear.

Nightly Total New Birds: 12

Season Totals

Total Count: 53; Foreign Recaptures: 2

Saw-whets eyes rapidly dilating in low light.

Sunday, 8 November 2020 – Zig saves the day … night

By Ben Spory

We had a late start last night after a door at the station locked behind us with the key inside. Fortunately Zig came to our rescue and with him came the birds. Our first net check yielded only 2 birds but our second netted 7, followed by another 2 at last check. This is our second night with 11 birds this week. We had multiple birds with interesting molt patterns, another male, and a second foreign recapture. HY birds made up less than half of the nightly total at 5, with 5 AHY birds, and 1 ASY bird. Our total count is now at 38 with 2 of those being foreign recaptures. We have essentially hit last season’s total in just 6 days of open nets! The weather looks like it will shift mid week but we should be able to get another night or two of banding in before the rain.

Nightly Total New Birds: 11
Season Totals

Total Count: 38; Foreign Recaptures: 2

The master bander at work

Saturday, 7 November 2020

Ben Spory

Banders outnumbered the owls last night by 1, with a total of 4 new owls banded. All birds captured were HY, 2 were female and 2 were indeterminate. Hopefully the weather remains clear and we continue this nice streak. After last season we are getting a bit spoiled having owls to band every night.
Nightly Total
New Birds: 4Recaptures:0   Season Totals
Total Count: 27Foreign Recaptures: 1

 Jake measures wing cord while Matt prepares a band.