Saturday, May 26, 2007

Gray Day

The weather was beautiful, actually, for the family's annual trek to the Winema National Forest (in southcentral Oregon) to monitor a sample of Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa) territories and nests. Most are artificial platforms (erected to provide nest substrate in lieu of the large broken-top snags that they would normally use).

But raising a brood of young requires more than a nest platform--it requires prey and lots of it. On the Winema, this means wet meadows full of voles and pocket gophers. Alas, the meadows are not wet this year, but dry and largely devoid of small mammals. So, we were skunked on the annual survey, and I doubt whether many of the owls in this local population even attempted nesting this year. Being relatively long-lived birds, great grays can afford to miss a few breeding seasons; but let's hope there's a break in the drought in the next year or two.

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