Sunday, November 14, 2010

Spotted Owl Study 11/14/2010

The Fall Spotted Owl crew of four girls and two dogs have been in the Shasta-Trinity forest of Northern California for 3 weeks now. The dogs have been doing great doing what they love best - working for a chance to play ball. Sampson and Max have taken us up very steep rocky slopes, across drainage's, over downed logs, through good and bad habitat all to find a few spotted owl pellets.

Heather swabbing and collecting an owl pellet.  CK9 Max watches over.
The dogs are finding them and we are collecting them. I have seen 3 spotted owls so far and heard several more hoots from a far before sunrise when we hoot for them to get an idea of where to focus the search. Being up close and personal with the species you are studying while still remaining as noninvasive as possible is very cool. Makes it worth it to wake up at 4 in the morning. I even saw a black bear cub one day while hiking through the forest with Liz and Sampson down slope from me. I was on a wildlife trail with some huge indentations in the dirt, became suspicious, looked up, and saw the bear about 10 feet away. You never know what you're going to find out there! That's the beauty of having your office in the forest. :) 
There's a spotted owl in that tree!
In the field, we swab the pellets on both sides and send both the pellet and the swabs with the DNA on it to the lab for species I.D. While our focus is the Northern Spotted Owl, we are collecting any and all pellets. The dogs are still in training to "speak" at spotted owl pellets while just sitting at all others. It's crazy the small little pieces of old pellets that they find. The tiniest bit of hair and bone and they find it.... That's why we have dogs to do this work for us. These small owl pellets blend in so well. 
Hooting for owls at sunrise on a foggy morning.

This is the first project I've been on where the dogs are trained to find something other than scat. I suppose with their noses they can be trained to search anything. I still find it really incredible to watch. Weather has been cool and wet (it snowed on us the other day) which makes for slippery hiking, but somehow we all end up in one piece once we make it back to the car. Don't ask me how. Everyone seems to be doing well and we will be planning our Thanksgiving here with the pups pretty soon.

Till next time,

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