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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Nerdy Birdy: Owl Adventures in Sequoia National Park

I went on an owl field trip with the Los Angeles Audubon two weeks ago and had the best time. The leaders, Mr. & Mrs. Owlbait, really took me under their wing (yes pun intended) and showed me the wild and difficult world of how to go owling. It truly is an art form and the world of Southern California Owls is their domain. So after spending eight hours searching the San Gabriel mountains, and after ecstatically finding my first ever Western Screech owl, Mr. & Mrs. Owlbait kindly offered to take me with them to survey owls in Kern Valley. I of course immediately accepted. What a fantastic opportunity.

The plan was to drive up Friday and meet at Lake Isabella. We had both booked rooms in the same hotel. We would meet at 5pm to go out for our first night. I drove up early, I wanted to miss the traffic and take my time. Plus I figured if I got to the hotel early I could catch a nap, I was told after all that we were going to be out all night. The drive through Kern Valley was so beautiful, twisting and winding canyon along a fast moving river. I stopped so many times to take photos... so I didn’t get to the hotel as early as I had originally planned.

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The first order of the night was to take care of the survey. Mr. & Mrs. Owlbait were part of a team counting the amounts of Flammulated Owls that could be found in particular areas. The first night there were 9 stops they had to cover. Each stop was clearly marked on the map along with a correlated GPS location. We would stop, they would play a series of recordings for the Flammulated Owl, and then they would listen to how many birds responded. It sounds relatively easy but the amount of work that went into driving between locations, listening for the birds at each location and then filling out the paperwork took quite a bit of time. It was only after the survey work was completed that we could take time to owl for fun. I was just fascinated to watch, listen and learn.

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It took over two hours to get to the first GPS point on the map. We had almost a full moon so there was plenty of ambient light. I think dark, in the woods and I think pitch black. However after a while you see shades of darkness. As we drove from location to location the temperature continued to drop. At its lowest we got to 49 degrees. Mr. & Mrs. Owlbait didn’t finish with all the points until well after 2AM. I didn’t contribute anything other than keeping silent when they were trying to listen for the owls. In between locations we all chatted in the car getting to know each other better and me always soaking up as much as I could.

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Finally the survey was over but we were all pretty tired from the drive and the fact that it was in the middle of the night. We stopped at a few more locations along the route on the way home and played some owl calls just for fun. As luck would have it a very cooperative Flammulated Owl swung by and called with the tape for about 4 minutes. We all got fantastic looks and I managed to get a great photo. My first Flammulated Owl, I get to cross this one off my Nerdy Birdy List.

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FLAMMULATED OWL

That one owl made this whole trip worth it. If I didn’t see anything else I would be happy but tomorrow we were all going out again, with a few other visitors, and tomorrow we would have much more time to have fun since there would only be 4 points we would need to stop at for the survey. So many possibilities!

1 comment:

paul peggy zeus said...

At least you didn't have to hold the flashlight between your knees, like we tried to do. lol.

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