Date: 9/29/18 6:12 am
From: Mitchell Pruitt <0000000b4ac30a99-dmarc-request...>
Subject: Northern Saw-whet Owls...coming soon to a forest near you AND a possible new record AND Red-breasted Nuthatch
For starters, I hope the subject line grabbed your attention!

As we get ready for the saw-whet owl migration season, I have been analyzing data and preparing my master’s thesis to defend this semester. A while back, I received saw-whet banding data from the USGS Bird Banding Laboratory. For those who may not know, the BBL is in charge of permitting and monitoring all bird banding that goes on in North America. Part of the deal for being permitted and receiving bands is that, at the end of a banding season, all researchers must submit the data they collect from the birds they band, to use for the greater good of ornithological research.

These datasets, including that of saw-whet owls, include recapture and re-encounter data of banded birds. This data comes from researchers capturing previously banded birds, bird watchers sighting a banded bird, or anyone finding a dead bird with a band or simply the band itself.

This sort of data can provide useful information on pathways used by migratory species, which is part of what collaborators and I are looking at for saw-whets migrating through the Ozark Highlands. In examining the BBL’s recapture data, I came across a “new” record for Arkansas. What we know from banding and re-encounter data is as follows:

—after hatch-year (adult)
—originally banded 10/5/1977 at Waupoos Island, Ontario
—re-encountered 4/26/1978 just northeast of Dumas, AR, near White River NWR (33.91667,-91.41667).
—in the data, the bird's present condition at re-encounter was “unknown”, suggesting only the band was found, not the bird

If anyone has any more information regarding this record, please shoot me a message off-list!

If you plots these locations on a map, you will quickly come to the conclusion that many of us saw-whetters have…and that is that there are some unusual more-or-less east-to-west movements going on with saw-whets in eastern North America. A “re-encounter” during the early months of 1978, suggests this bird likely spent the winter of ’77 in Arkansas. From this, it is GENERALLY safe to presume its “pathway” encompasses a single fall migration. However, I am by no means suggesting the bird took a straight-line flight from Waupoos Island to southeast Arkansas :-D

Meanwhile, we’re gearing up for the migration banding season to begin in about a month! Reports from “up north” a few, as of yet, but positive. We shall see how it goes! Stay tuned for more.

Mitchell Pruitt
P.S. I’m sitting outside my family home in Jonesboro, AR, listening to Ruby-throated Hummingbirds engaged in a morning battle, while a Red-breasted Nuthatch toots from a post oak nearby.
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