Volunteers asked to partake in Manitoulin nocturnal owl survey

The Northern saw-whet owl, like the one spotted here in January, is one of the species researchers are hoping to find in the nocturnal owl survey.

MANITOULIN—Bird Studies Canada is looking for Island volunteers with a keen sense of hearing to participate in two Ontario nocturnal owl survey routes as part of an annual study.

Kathy Jones, a volunteer coordinator with Bird Studies Canada, explained that there are actually four survey routes on Manitoulin, but that two of them are currently vacant and in need of volunteers.

“This project is central and Northern Ontario-based,” she explained. “It’s designed to see how populations of owls are doing in the forest.”

The survey, Ms. Jones continued, focuses on a stretch of roadway 18 kilometres long in the Kagawong and Mindemoya areas. Those interested are asked to drive that stretch of route, stopping every two kilometres to play, either through MP3 or CD through a portable stereo, a recording of owl calls supplied by the organization. The returns ‘hoots’ are then recorded in writing. This is what’s known as a ‘broadcast survey’ and Ms. Jones said it works best when the car is actually turned off and the surveyors can listen closely for the return calls.

This must be done in April, preferably the first two weeks of April before the ‘spring peepers’ are loudly looking for love and the rushing water of melting snow begins in earnest, and between the hours of a half hour after sundown and midnight, Ms. Jones said.

As this is volunteer-based, participants will need to provide their own transportation and any associated costs and are asked to bring a survey ‘partner’ along for the ride. Two passes along the survey route are also requested.

Owls the survey is hoping to target on Manitoulin are the barred, northern saw-whet and boreal owls

The two routes that are already being surveyed by interested Islanders are on Lake Manitou and Ice Lake, while the two available routes run along the Government Road near Mindemoya and Highway 542 to Lake Kagawong.

Those who are interested in putting their names forward are asked to contact Ms. Jones at volunteer@birdscanada.org or by calling 1-888-448-2473 ext. 124 to receive further information.