Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 64

Banding Saw-whets
ECEMBER is more than deer season and holidays to me. December — blessed December — is when I finally get some sleep. For more than 15 years, I’ve overseen an increasingly large and complex research program that is trying to better understand the migration of northern saw-whet owls through Pennsylvania — the little owls that are the symbol of the state’s Wild Resource Conservation Program, and which graced the commonwealth’s first conservation vehicle license plate. Our project, which is run through the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art in Dauphin County, started small but quickly grew. Today, we have three sites — one each in Schuylkill, Dauphin and Cumberland counties — at which our crew of 18 licensed banders and 85 other well-trained assistants (all of them volunteers) catch, band and release up to 900 saw-whets a year. We start at the beginning of October each fall, stringing nearly invisible mist nets through the woods, waiting until dark when we play recordings of the saw-whet’s weirdly mechanical, tooting call. We operate seven nights a week, weather permitting, until the end of November, usually not quitting each night until the wee hours of the morning. Hearing the recording as they pass overhead, migrating owls — sometimes 30 or 40 a night — swoop down out the black night sky to investigate and wind up in our nets. They are banded, measured and weighed before their release, and because these small boreal hunters have little instinctive fear of humans, they often sit contentedly on one’s arm or shoulder for long minutes before flying off again into the darkness. Over the years, the work that we and many colleagues across the country do has revealed that the Appalachians are a major migratory route for saw-whets, some of which travel down to Alabama or Georgia. Owls we’ve banded have also been recaptured on the breeding grounds in New England or Canada (one, a female, was found in a nest box in Quebec with a male that had been banded in Minnesota.) But mystery still surrounds this enigmatic bird, which is why some of them leave us with tiny radio transmitters, so we can track them to their daytime roosts, or plot their movements minute by minute through the night — the first time anyone has tried to plot the nocturnal activity range of the saw-whet owl. One surprising find is that this little owl, which weighs about as much as a robin, may hunt over more than 700 acres, or commute from a ridgetop roost more than three miles to hunting sites in the valley, returning by daybreak.) It’s fascinating stuff and a privilege to pull back the curtain, at least a little, on a secretive bird. But it’s also tiring, and none of us on the crew gets a lot of sleep in October and November. One of the things we’ve learned is that, come December, our pillows feel awfully good.
64	 GAME	 NEWS

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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011

Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011
History of the Whitetail
Contents
In Those Days
Flintin’ With the Flatlander
Late Season Duck Hunting
The Perfect Opening Day
A Moment for Redemption
Deer Harvest Estimates
Beware the Pogonip
Habitat for Hunter Access Cooperato
The Cadet
Field Notes
Conservation News
Off the Wire
Another View
The Naturalist’s Eye
Straight from the Bowstring
Fun Game
Lock, Stock & Barrel
Annual Index
Crossings
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - Cover2
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - History of the Whitetail
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - Contents
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - In Those Days
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 4
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 5
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 6
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - Flintin’ With the Flatlander
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 8
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 9
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - Late Season Duck Hunting
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 11
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 12
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 13
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - The Perfect Opening Day
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 15
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - A Moment for Redemption
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 17
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 18
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - Deer Harvest Estimates
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 20
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 21
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - Beware the Pogonip
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 23
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 24
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 25
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - Habitat for Hunter Access Cooperato
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 27
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - The Cadet
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 29
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 30
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 31
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 32
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 33
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - Field Notes
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 35
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 36
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 37
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 38
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - Conservation News
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 40
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 41
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 42
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 43
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 44
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 45
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - Off the Wire
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - Another View
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 48
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 49
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - The Naturalist’s Eye
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 51
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 52
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 53
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - Straight from the Bowstring
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 55
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 56
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - Fun Game
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - Lock, Stock & Barrel
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 59
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 60
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - Annual Index
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 62
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - 63
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - Crossings
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - bb1
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - bb2
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - Cover3
Pennsylvania Game News - December 2011 - Cover4
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