Today, I was lucky enough to attend a saw whet owl banding in South Mountain State Park, hosted by the Potomac Valley Audubon Society (PVAS). The banding season lasts a few weeks, from about Halloween-thru-Thanksgiving, and the process provides valuable information regarding the migratory patterns of the birds.
The saw whet is one of the smallest owls in North America. Adults are roughly 8-9″ high with a wingspan of 17-22″, which isn’t much bigger than a robin or a blue jay. On average, the female saw whet is slightly larger than the male, and they make up roughly 90 percent of the birds netted.
On South Mountain, a male call was blasted, and the lone female saw whet was caught in a mist net. The mist net is so-named because it is visible to the human eye in a slight breeze and looks like a light wisp of fog. We stayed with the group for around three hours, and a little after midnight she was caught and banded. Afterwards, she was re-acclimated to the dark and shortly thereafter released back into the wild. Seeing this saw whet owl was a great experience, and I will definitely be checking the PVAS website for further birding opportunities.