Saturday, December 14, 2013
Finding Patrick's Transmitter
I have been feeling queasy lately since Patrick and Patience's transmitters haven't been moving. I went out at 7 AM a few mornings ago to scour the bluff with my receiver, trying to locate him. Although I got good signals, I simply couldn't pin it down exactly. This morning Hein and I went out just after 7 AM for another try.
It's cold, but I realized after last time that climbing snowy, heavily wooded hillsides works up some body heat, so I dressed in lighter layers, but very obviously not for fashion or to look nice in a photo!!
We climbed and tried not to let gravity return us to the bottom of the hill, or to the ground. I took very frequent bearings with the receiver (as I am doing in the photo.) Finally, after quite some time, I got to the point where it was so loud and so directional that I had to be just about standing on it. Sickeningly, the antenna beeped loudest as I pointed to the ground.
Hein was on the uphill side, and when I said that the transmitter had to be on the ground, he simply pointed and said "There it is." Thankfully he was not pointing at an owl-shaped bump...he was pointing at the receiver poking out of the snow.
We picked it up and found it was still attached to the central two tail feathers. I cleared the snow to make sure there were no other feathers, and there weren't. It had simply broken off, leaving Patrick without his middle two tail feathers. (They do this when the molt every year, so it shouldn't be a big hindrance to him.)
I was much lighter in my heart as we carefully negotiated our way down the hill. Hein did the "butt slide" part of the way.
When we got back to the house we looked at the feathers more closely. Hein said he made sure not to pinch the shafts when he tied on the transmitters, and the shafts had broken exactly at the leading edge of the transmitter's base plate.
I'm guessing what happened is that the transmitter's base plate was big enough that it didn't allow the flexibility the tail feathers needed, so instead of just bending when in dense cedar trees like this, the central two tail feathers kinked and eventually broke off.
Hein went out looking for Patience later, without luck. I suspect we'll find her transmitter too. This isn't an unusual type of mount, and I think it's used on Peregrine Falcons. But perhaps Great Horned Owl feathers need to work in a different way?? Not sure what happened here. But at any rate, Patrick's free and unable to be tracked, other than his begging calls. He was in the yard begging early this morning again, so I set up the two swimming pools the owlets used for rat catching outside, complete with dead gophers. I hope he figures it out if he needs it.
We'll try again on Monday on a different landowner's property to find Patience's transmitter.