April 22, 2012

266: Red Sky At Night

I almost missed this year's nocturnal owl survey. Anyone who's been around these parts knows it's one of my favourite rites of spring (as evident here, and here, and here, and here). This year the stars weren't aligning, as buddy Jason couldn't make it to town in time to squeeze into the early April window the survey results rely on. Too bad, since the astoundingly early spring would come with excellent road conditions – after our 2011 survey fell short due to heavy snowpack on the route we take.

But we learned on Friday that late-April results would still count so we made a go of it, building in an early burger run to Blondie's. The evening was incredible. Shoe Lake, a popular canoe launch in Nopiming Provincial Park where we typically stop and wait for sunset, was completely thawed. In our ten previous owl surveys the lake ranged from slushy to completely frozen, even in the warmest of springs.

And there was lots of activity. Our 20-mile route resulted in 18 owl recordings, among our best years on record. The results would have been more fruitful had the pitch-black forest not been inundated by thousands of calling spring peepers and wood frogs (especially because normal interference from geese, ducks and grouse didn't seem to be an issue). But no cause for complaint; even in years where numbers are low it's a treat to stand stark-still on an empty logging road in the dark and listen to the sweet nothing that envelopes me. Or the slap of a beaver's tail on water, which can darn near empty my bowels. Either way, it's cool.


And of course, we are not above spoiling the serenity of it all (photo by Jason).

Want to take part in the Manitoba Nocturnal Owl Survey? Head here. And stay out of the Nopiming – that's our turf.

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