Three weeks after I said I would definitely hit 100 owls in a couple days, I have finally reached 100 owls. There couldn’t be a clearer sign that owl migration is over and it is time to pack the nets in for the season and say goodbye to bird banding until next spring. I am both happy and sad about this; I am happy because three weeks of catching next to nothing gets awfully boring but I am sad because I know that once the put the nets away it is officially winter.
As of this moment I am at 102 northern saw-whet owls, which is exactly the average. I had really hoped that boreal owls would make a real migration push, but it would seem that one here and one there is all they are going to give me. I have banded 7 though, which is not bad considering we have caught a total of two prior to this year. I will still be operating for another 5 nights, just to finish the month out, but I’m not expecting those numbers to change too much.
There are some things about winter to be excited by though. Winter is actually a great time to get out birding. The diversity is much lower than in the warmer seasons, but we can still expect around 50 species of birds overwintering in north and central Alberta, some which are only here for the winter, like snow bunting. For a seasoned birder that may seems sadly low, but to someone wanting to get started with birding, a reduction in diversity can go a long way towards making identification a less daunting challenge. Also, with the trees stripped of their leaves birds are easier to spot and observe. Birds are also more inclined to spend time foraging in the shrub layer of the forest, instead of the now terribly exposed canopy, and of course at feeders, which again, makes them easy targets for bird-watchers.
If you are interested in getting into birding this winter, the LSLBO, in partnership with Northern Lakes College is putting on a free webinar on winter birding. The webinar will be on November 23rd from 6:30-8:30 and anyone can join, all you need to do is register and have an internet connection. To register just call or email the Northern Lakes College.
Another way to get started on birding this winter is to participate in our local Christmas Bird Count. You don’t need to be an expert birder – even beginners are welcomed and encouraged to come out and enjoy a day of bird-watching and socializing. The Christmas Bird Count will be sometime in the second half of December and will be advertised in the newspaper and on the Boreal Centre Facebook page once the date is chosen.
With that, I will bid all my faithful readers farewell until next April. It was a pleasure sharing the goings-on of the Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory, as well as my love for birds, with you once more this summer. I hope to see some of you at either the Christmas Bird Count or the winter birding webinar, but if I don’t, enjoy your winter, and happy birding.
Hooded Mergansers on Lesser Slave River