[NatureNS] Owl Survey, Tangier

Date: Sun, 08 Apr 2012 16:36:00 -0300
To: NatureNS <naturens@chebucto.ns.ca>
From: "P.L. Chalmers" <plchalmers@ns.sympatico.ca>
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	Friday night, with Suzanne Borkowski's help, I surveyed my Nocturnal 
Owl route on the Tangier to Mooseland / Moose River Gold Mines Road, 
on the Eastern Shore.  We had been watching the weather and Good 
Friday looked like the only possible chance for this weekend.  We saw 
very few birds on the drive down in the afternoon, either on land or 
on the water.  We had hoped to see our first Great Blue Heron or 
Osprey of the year, but didn't find either.  However we didn't have 
the time to do much searching so probably overlooked some.  When we 
got to Tangier we were pleased to see a lot of birds in Pope's 
Harbour; a flock of about 10 Horned Grebes, in patchy breeding 
plumage, was a treat.  There was a lively group of about 20 
Red-breasted Mergansers chasing one another around, and a pair of 
Surf Scoters.  Red-winged Blackbirds and Grackles were calling nearby.

	The route goes inland through largely coniferous forests with lots 
of rocky lakes and black spruce/tamarack bogs.   Northern Fibre's 
woodchip  plant is in Sheet Harbour, and there is a lot of active 
forestry here, including biomass harvesting.  Every year we notice 
new clearcuts.  After scouting out our route we had supper in Sheet 
Harbour and returned to Tangier to begin the survey half an hour 
after sunset.  The winds had dropped to less than 10k, as predicted, 
and it was clear and dry.  American Woodcock were peenting and 
winnowing overhead at our first stop, and panicky Robins were 
calling.  A little while later the moon rose full.  Late in the 
evening, when it was absolutely still, we heard a pair of Loons 
duetting from Bear Lake.  Nonetheless I was struck by how quiet it 
was for most of our stops; most of the ditches were dry and there was 
no sound of running water.   Perhaps because it was drier than usual, 
or perhaps it was just a bit too cool (+2/+3), no Spring Peepers or 
Wood Frogs were calling.  I have yet to hear either this year.

	However some owls were certainly announcing their presence.  At the 
first stop we heard  two Northern Saw-whets calling as soon as we got 
out of the car, and we found seven more in the course of the 
evening.  There was at least one NSWO at eight of the ten stops, for 
nine in all.  We also heard two Great Horned Owls.  Most unusually, 
we did not hear a single Barred Owl.  This is the tenth year that 
Suzanne and I have run this route, and during that time we have had a 
low of three owls, and a high of 16.  Our ten-year average is 8.6, so 
this year's 11 was on the high side.  This is the third year in a row 
that we have had a large number of Northern Saw-whets, in fact more 
of them than any other owl.  I can see that in some ways, 
clear-cutting produces habitat more favourable to them than to the 
larger owls.  Comments, anyone?

	Patricia L. Chalmers


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