Last Friday I did my last Owl route for the year. It’s sad that the owl survey season is over, but now I have it to look forward to next April. I went with Jukka Jantunen on his last route of the year on April 14 along the Atlin Road, in the Yukon. That was a really good night! It started out pretty slow with no owls heard. However, we started hearing our first Great Horned Owls and Boreal Owls about half-way through the route, as well as a couple of Ruffed Grouse drumming. The first time I heard one drumming that night, I felt it more than heard it. It felt like it was my heart beating faster and faster, and getting louder. I started to panic thinking that I was having a heart attack or something before I realized that it was actually a grouse! On one of the stops before we got out, Jukka told me that he had heard Great Horned Owls and Boreal Owls before on this stop. He also mentioned having heard a Saw-whet Owl on this stop before, which is a rare migrant to the Yukon.
We got out and immediately heard a Great Horned Owl. A few seconds later we heard a Boreal Owl singing somewhere in the forest. Then, this really loud sound pierced my ears. It was like a moan and a coyote yip mixed into one sound. I had never heard anything like that before! And the scary thing, it seemed to move very fast. It would call from one location one minute, then call from another distant location a minute later. It was just a short ways down the road from where Jukka’s car was parked, so I got scared. I decided to get in Jukka’s car to listen to the owls with the window rolled down. As I listened, I started hearing this faint, high, rhythmic tooting that sounded suspiciously like a Saw-whet Owl to me. A second later, I heard Jukka start running for the car. ” There’s a Saw-whet calling.” He said. There was a note of excitement in his voice, which you only ever hear from him if he has just seen a VERY good bird. I got out to listen to my first Saw-whet Owl ever, and tried to record the sound with my camera. unfortunately, it was too far away for my camera to record. Jukka noticed that the weird sound responded every time the Saw-whet called, so he thought that it might be a female Saw-whet contact call. It certainly seemed to be an owl with the speed that it moved. That was definitely the highlight of the night. That route ended with a total of 4 Boreal Owls, 6 Great Horned Owls, 1 (maybe 2) Saw-whet Owls, and 2 Ruffed Grouse.
I did my own owl route on April 29th with my Mom, Moya van Delft. It started at Carcross, ended at Tagish (In the Yukon), and was 16 stops long. It went way better than I was expecting; I didn’t expect to hear many owls calling because we were doing the route so late in the season. The weather conditions were pretty good too: 20% cloud cover, no wind for more than half of the route, hardly any traffic, and almost no snow on the ground. The starting temperature was +2C at the start of the route, and 0C at the end. Our totals came to: 7 Great Horned Owls, 6 Boreal Owls, and 2 Ruffed Grouse. Not bad at all! On our last stop there was a Boreal Owl calling only about 100 metres away. It was very clear and loud; a perfect end to the night.