Long-time readers of this blog know that WC and Mr. WC volunteer for citizen science projects. One of those projects is the Western Asio Flammeus Landscape Study (WAfLS). Asio Flammeus is the Short-eared Owl. Short-eared Owls are an open-country, ground-nesting species found in marshes, grasslands, shrublands, and tundra across North America and around the world. They feed on small mammals like mice, voles, shrews, and sometimes on birds.
Evidence suggests that Short-eared Owl populations are experiencing long-term, range-wide, substantial declines in North America. The National Audubon Society Climate Program has classified the species as “Climate-Endangered.” WAfLS is trying to get accurate population and habitat data.
So in two different areas in southwestern Idaho, twice a year, WC and Mrs. WC go and count Short-eared Owls. And use the opportunity to do a little birding, as well. One of those areas is Weiser Cove, north and west of Boise, along the Weiser River.
This trip, for example, we saw Golden and Bald Eagles, Red-tailed and Rough-legged Hawks, thousands of Snow Geese, hundreds of Trumpeter and Tundra Swans, Ring-necked Pheasants, Gray Partridges, a hundred or more Wild Turkeys, dozens of passerines like this handsome Horned Lark, and even an early-arriving Burrowing Owl.
WC doesn’t want to be speciesist. There were a lot of deer and even some Pronghorn.
And altogether excellent day of birding and critter-watching.
What we didn’t see was any Short-eared Owls. In fact, we’ve never seen a Short-eared Owl on this particular survey area. It’s pretty good habitat, too.
The thing about science is that zeroes – not seeing the target species – is data, too. It may not be quite as much fun, but it is still important. We’ll be back there again next month.