Field Fun Friday

One great benefit to using ARUs to study songbirds is that you can retrieve the data at a convenient time. Last week I went out the field one last time to collect 38 ARUs that I left out to sample the last few weeks of Olive-sided Flycatcher activity in bogs and burns around Fort Providence, NWT. When I last saw these birds in July, some of them had empty nests that were predated, some had hatchlings, some had fledglings and some had seemingly already left. When I analyze these data later, I may be able to hear when they actually left their territories to start their migration down south.

This was the first time I ever visited the boreal forest in the fall and a couple of things became apparent to me very quickly:

1) Despite often being conifer dominated in lowland areas, boreal bogs have beautiful fall colours! Tamaracks pepper the forest with golden hues and patches of aspens and deciduous shrubs add more variation of yellows, oranges and reds.

2) Revisiting and walking around boreal forest where I spent many hours in during the busy bird breeding season makes me realize how SILENT it is in the fall when everyone is gone. It feels like walking around empty circus grounds the day after a big weekend show… there is evidence of a party and the noise is almost ringing in your ears, but no one is there. Except the ravens and gray jays, those die hard resident partiers.

-Photos and post by Emily Upham-Mills

Volunteering in the Owlery for the annual School of Witchcraft and Wizardry event


Lively looking owl specimens demonstrate to kids a wide variety of species


Special adaptations of their wings, skull, and talons, make owls formidable predators

Several grad students in our lab helped run the owlery again this year at School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, an annual science outreach event run by Let’s Talk Science at the University of Alberta. We taught kids a variety of facts about owls including how they are adapted to their environment, how they hunt, and how they communicate.

The students got to listen to several different species calls recorded from the wild. We had a variety of owl specimens and new this year we brought in mammal specimens (a hare, mouse, vole, and a squirrel), to show the kids what kinds of prey owls will eat. The kids really seemed to enjoy it and so did we! It was great seeing their eyes light up as they learned about owls and listened to different owl calls, there was even one kid that did a great impression of the calls of four different owl species!


Participants listened to audio recordings of owl calls

Photos and text by Julia Shonfield

Field Fun Friday


Northern hawk owls are a species of owl that are active during the day (they are diurnal as opposed to nocturnal). They are distributed throughout the boreal forest across Canada, and are year-round residents. They usually inhabit coniferous or mixed-wood forests near open areas and are also frequently found in old burned forests. This pair of hawk owls was spotted in a patch of burned forest on the northern edge of the McClelland fen north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. They feed on small mammals such as mice and voles, but also some small birds. They nest in cavities or hollow broken tree tops. Judging by their behaviour towards us, there’s a good chance we were close to their nest, though we couldn’t see any obvious cavities.

Video taken by Darcy Doran-Myers
Post by Julia Shonfield