After a crazy day of running around town like a chicken with its head cut off – shopping and packing in preparation for my big move to the college dorm – I was glad to finally get to Tony’s Pizza for take out and then get on the road to Teslin. Blasting my favorite songs and singing my heart out, I passed through the spectacular mountainous valley that herds the highway to Teslin and beyond… my worries slipping away with each passing kilometer.
I pulled into the Teslin Lake Campground at 8:30pm, and met a volunteer from Alaska, Gwen, as well as a long-term volunteer from Germany, Sara. Jukka Jantunen (the Bander-in-Charge) and Ted Murphy-Kelly (Station Manager at Albert Creek BO), were out down the highway setting up mist nets that we would be using to (hopefully) catch owls with that night for banding. Once they got back, got the speakers with owl songs going, the nets open down below us, and the campfire lit, we settled in to catch up and relax over some delicious pizza and wings.
Every 30 minutes we would go to check the nets. Half our party would stay to check the open nets down below the campsite at the bird observatory, and the rest would go with Jukka up the highway to check nets at a different location. It was a beautiful warm night, with it being only +9C when we finally went to bed at around 2:00am. A few thrush flew into the nets, Varied and Swainson’s; it wasn’t until about midnight or just after that we caught our first Boreal Owl. After I extracted it, Jukka showed me how to carefully put on a special clamp-lock band. The next net run brought a second Boreal Owl, which Jukka extracted and then allowed me to band. Putting on those locked bands definitely requires some technique, and proved to be a bit awkward… especially since the little owl was chewing on my hand with it’s sharp beak! After five years of waiting, I finally got to band an owl… a new highlight in my memories of TLBO!
Morning began at 6:15am. I woke up buried under two sleeping bags in the front seat of my car, damp and cold, the windows covered in moisture and frost. Outside, the weather was gorgeous with hardly any wind, no precipitation (though it threatened for a while), and the sun came out later in the morning. The birds moved in waves through the nets, and we banded a total of 87. The biggest wave was a flock of more than 100 Pine Siskens, of which close to 40 got caught in a single net.
Yellow-rumped Warblers, Wilson’s Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Dark-eyed Juncos, Fox Sparrows, Alder Flycatchers, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets also made their appearances on the nets runs. Out on the lake, Red-necked Grebes, Common Loons, Herring and Mew Gulls called, while Northern Pintail, Semipalmated Plover, Spotted Sandpiper, Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Parasitic Jaegers, and a variety of passerines flew by.
Going to Teslin Lake Bird Observatory in the fall is one of the things I look forward to the most each year. After having spent the last few weeks feeling significantly stressed out and preparing for the next big change in my life – college, being able to go and band birds, spend time with Jukka and Ted, laugh lots, breathe, relax, and having a nap in the sunshine on the warm beach after nets closed for the day, acted as a soul cleanser. I found my zen. And I got to band an owl at last… the best thing ever 🙂 Now it’s back to the grindstone, but I plan to come again on weekends throughout the season. Enjoy this beautiful autumn we’ve been having!