Oct 28 2016
If you’ve never seen a northern saw-whet owl, now’s the time to visit Pittsburgh’s Project Owlnet!
Bob Mulvihill of the National Aviary has been banding them at Sewickley Heights Park since 2013. Three years of statistics indicate that the best nights for northern saw-whets are dark evenings with a north wind in late October so I went out there last Wednesday, October 26.
Bob sets up the mist nets and “toot” speakers at dusk. Placed near the nets, the speakers play the owls’ own tooting sound to attract them. Helpers and spectators wait at the picnic tables for the periodic net checks.
I arrived late — at 10:00pm — and heard that I’d just missed an owl. Oh no! Would there be more?
At 10:15 the banding helpers came back with TWO owls. There’s one in the white bag in Bob’s hand.
The owls are very calm in the hand. Notice the feathers on her eyelids. (All the owls are female.)
These talons are needle sharp for catching mice.
Receiving her band…
Bob spreads the bird’s wing to examine the color of her feathers. The combination of newer and older feathers indicates her age.
Northern saw-whets like to be scratched on the head. They close their eyes when you do it.
After the birds are banded, we get to see them up close. So soft!
Two owls at once!
A close look …
Three owls are triple the fun!
Want to see these owls up close?
(photos by Doug Cunzolo, Donna Foyle, Kathy Miller, Barb Griffith and Kate St. John)