Posted by: atowhee | November 3, 2014

SOME GREAT GRAY OWL TRIVIA

Can you name Oregon Christmas Bird Counts that have reported Great Gray Owl in recent years?
Since 1950 how many years has at least one GGO been reported on a CBC somewhere in Washington/Oregon/California?
What is the highest number of counts reporting at least one GGO in that same time period in the three Pacific Slope states?
ANSWERS BELOW THE IMAGEGGOWphotoAdrienneM
This photo was taken on a recent Oakridge, Oregon, CBC by Adrienne Marble. Thank you, Adrienne, for sharing this image.
ANSWER #1: Silverton and Oakridge
ANSWER #2: 29 years one of the counts has reported GGO in the three states…our of a total of 64 counts tallied so far since 1950. That’s less than half of the years…
ANSWER #3: In 2006 four CBCs had Great Gray Owls, for total of 5 individuals…but back in 1961 two count circles tallied 7 individual GGOs!
I think we can agree the GGO qualifies as a scarce bird, even in its nesting territory. And one that does not often lurk around towns and farms this far south. Some years they are common in the suburbs of Canada’s more northerly cities.

PLATFORMS
GGO PLATFORM PROGRAM

RVAS is helping place nest platforms for Great Gray Owls. Jackson County has 300-500 GGOs, mostly in the Cascades. A few are in the uplands along the Applegate River. That estimate’s from Steve Godwin, BLM’s chief biologist in the county. For about two decades BLM field biologists in southwestern Oregon have searched for Great Gray Owls during an annual spring survey. Great Grays are in eastern Josephine County and Klamath County. The only confirmed GGO population in northern California is a small one north of Alturas in Modoc County. There’s an isolated population around Yosemite.
Godwin assured me the recent forest fire east of Greensprings did NOT hit known GGO nesting habitat. That fire mostly burned commercial timber land, not the right habitat for the species.
Platforms are being made by volunteer and nature photographer, Peter Thiemann. Each needs to be carefully placed in dense, mature forest near meadows good for Great Gray hunting. A platform is put 35 feet above the ground by an experienced forestry worker. Donations go for materials and pay the person equipped to hang the platform.
Below is nest platform that has been in place for over a decade, still in use. Almost no known natural nest site could last that long. The platform in the picture is in Cascades of Jackson County at about 4500’ elevation in a privately owned parcel of land that includes a spring-fed grassy meadow good for hunting small rodents year round.

One limitation to Great Grays’ population is lack of nesting places. Owls don’t build nests. They use cliffs, cavities, old nests for other species, manmade structures. GGOs do not use buildings, bridges, cavities or cliffs. Left to their own devices GGOs need a large tree trunk broken off at the right height or a nest built by Raven or Red-tail. Many of these natural nest sites are short-lived. A pair we monitored this spring on a private ranch near Grizzly Peak used a fast disintegrating Ravens’ nest. That area is where the first two platforms will be placed this fall.
There is good evidence of Great Gray Owls using nest platforms over many years. Here in the southern part of their range owls will pair and nest almost every season because food supplies—small rodents—are generally available. Further north lemming populations may crash leading to a dormant season where nests are fewer or non-existent. Platforms are now used for GGOs in Scandinavia, Canada and in their scattered nesting areas in the western U.S. One platform on private land near Howard Prairie Lake has been used both in 2013 and 2014.
If you can donate to the Great Gray Owl nest platform fund, please send check to RVAS, P.O. Box 8597, Medford OR 97501. Your donations are tax deductible.

SO FAR ROGUE VALLEY AUDUBON HAS BEEN ABLE TO PAY FOR THE BUILDING AND PLACEMENT OF NINE NEST PLATFORMS IN TWO GGO-RICH AREAS OF JACKSON COUNTY.
We will be suerveying them next spring to see if any are in use.


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