Following the completion of this year's Western Screech Owl listening surveys, and as we embark on checking posted nest boxes for newcomers, we'd like to share Holly's surveying story.
By: Habitat Acquisition Trust Volunteer, Holly McCullough
On a crisp day in early March, my partner, Gavin, and I along with our friends, Gail & Jake, set out to do a Western Screech Owl survey with HAT. We loaded up with gear and got our mission’s instructions from Paige in the Park and Ride on Helmcken Road. Armed with a megaphone and wearing our safety vests, we headed out to Highland road for our second attempt in two years to locate the Western Screech Owl on this particular route.
We diligently played our playback calls at each of the locations and strained our ears to hear our elusive feathered friend. At one stop, deep in the woods near Thetis Lake, we heard some rustling in the trees and to our surprise a strange looking cyclist came out of the pitch black forest. He was dressed in dark clothing with absolutely no lights or reflective gear on him. We tried to say hello but he didn’t say a word and eerily walked off into the night with his bike in tow. We couldn’t figure out where he had come from and in the end we were all convinced we had just seen the “ghost” of Thetis Lake!
At the next location, we were pleasantly surprised to hear a chorus of Pacific Tree Frogs harmonizing for a free evening concert. At the final spot on our journey we were greeted by the menacing bark of a couple dogs racing back and forth on a nearby property. We hoped that the yard was completely fenced in and as an extra precaution we all made sure we could quickly jump back into the car in case the hungry-sounding mammals escaped their enclosure and made good on their enthusiastic threats.
We successfully completed our last playback but given the terror these canine protectors of the night had instilled in our hearts, it was unsurprising the Western Screech Owl decided to stay silent yet again. Even though luck wasn’t on our side that evening we still had a great time, munching on snacks, having some good laughs and keeping each other company on our very eventful adventure in the woods.