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Out and about with owls

Out and about with owls

Augustana Wildlife Club bands and releases saw-whet owls

A few dozen Augustana students made a chilly nighttime drive out to Beaverhill Bird Observatory (BBO) where they had the opportunity to band and release saw-whet owls on Oct. 19.

“Learning about ecological management is beneficial to any student, especially in regards to our environmental impacts,” said Wildlife Club President Chelsea Toft, who organized the event.

Toft said that the trip gives students, particularly biology majors, the chance to experience a different career option.

“Usually they catch the saw-whet owls. If you were walking through the forest there might be one nearby but you wouldn’t necessarily see it cause it’s so small. We get to actually get up close and see them, which is a really cool experience,” said Toft.

Banding is a conservation strategy that involves putting numbered aluminum rings around the ankles of birds to record population growth or decline of migrating species.

Many of the species that live in the Beaverhill Lake area are migratory, travelling as far as the tropics in Central America every fall, and then returning in the spring. During the fall months, saw-whets and other small owl species are the most commonly banded, while during the spring and summer, songbirds become the focus.

Over a period of several years, the recorded data allows the researchers to compare the number of adult birds to juveniles and estimate the survival success of individuals of the species.

According to the BBO website, the bird banding laboratory was built in 1986. Mainly staffed by summer students and volunteers, the organization has been recording the number of individuals and species of birds to monitor populations as they migrate from the north to the south and then back again.

Future Wildlife Club events include building birdhouses in November, assisting Environmental Sciences professor Glynnis Hood with the beaver lodge survey in December, and a bake sale in the winter semester with proceeds going towards the World Wildlife Foundation to sponsor a Canadian species.

Toft said that she encourages those who are interested in being involved in the club activites to contact her.

To join the Wildlife Club or find out about future events please contact Chelsea Toft at and join the Facebook page.

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