Helen Trefry, a wildlife biologist in Edmonton, Alberta, wanted to know where the Burrowing Owls in her part of Canada migrated to. How long did it take them to get to their destinations? Where and how did they spend their stopovers? An amateur radio operator from Texas, along with a network of ham radio enthusiasts known as "biotrackers," stepped up to help. These citizen-scientists tuned in their scanners and VHF monitors to catch the faint beep of the owls' transmitters. Learn more about the Burrowing Owl Monitoring Project.
People Helping Birds—
Tracking the Burrowing Owl
Written by Ellen Blackstone
This is BirdNote!
(coo-cooo of a Burrowing Owl)
We’re hearing the call of a ground-dwelling owl, the Burrowing Owl. Helen Trefry [pron. TREF-ree], a wildlife biologist in Edmonton, Alberta, wanted to know where the owls in her part of Canada migrated to. She wanted to know how long it took them to get to their destinations and where—and how—they spent their stopovers. Trapping and banding them was easy enough. But how, then, to follow them? (coo-cooo)
(This is K7BRK, K7BRK…)
An amateur radio operator in Texas offered his help and—almost overnight—a network of ham radio enthusiasts, known as “biotrackers,” joined the effort. These citizen-scientists tuned in their scanners and VHF monitors, to catch the faint beep of an owl’s transmitter. (beep-beep-beep) Teams on the ground searched for the burrows where the owls rested by day, gathering information about how the owls feed and learning of the dangers they face during migration. (rattle of a Burrowing Owl)
Another biologist, Scott Weidensaul, author of Living on the Wind, enlisted the help of biotrackers in tracking Northern Saw-whet Owls as they migrated southward from Pennsylvania. (hoot-hoot-hoot of a Saw-whet)
BirdNote salutes these amateur radio operators for their help in better understanding birds, their journeys, and the ecosystems on which they depend.
Learn more about these citizen-scientists, when you come to our web site, BirdNote.org. I’m Frank Corrado.
Bird audio provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Burrowing Owl recorded by G.A. Keller. Northern Saw-whet Owl recorded by T. Knight.
Ham Radio audio provided by Chris Altwegg
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© Seattle Audubon 08/15/06 © 2008 Tune In to Nature.org Revised for August 2008