Friday, May 25, 2012

Boreal Owl Study - Day 1 (Part 1), 2012

Today began our Boreal Owl study for 2012.  After picking up last-minute supplies - like bear spray - I know...don't deploy it in the truck again. We packed up our gear bags and headed out to the field.
First stop was the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) to pick up our field truck.  Since our study site is out in the mountains north or Fairbanks, the roads are too rough to use a regular vehicle.  We're not sure what the roads are like this year, so our research collaborator, ADFG, is providing us with their truck.
The truck is a 4-wheel drive, diesel, equipped with a battery buddy that will disconnect the battery after a few days of non-use.  
So, the first thing to do is activate the battery.
Then we were off - driving north out of Fairbanks. 

Last year, our study site was out the Steese Highway (Hwy 3) north of Fairbanks.  There were about 10 occupied Boreal Owl nest boxes between mile marker 1 and 80. To get to the Steese, you drive about 20 miles north of Fairbanks to the gold-mining town of Fox and turn right.  Unfortunately, there are only a couple of occupied boxes out the Steese this year, so we are shifting our study site to the boxes along the Elliott Highway (Hwy 2).

If you go straight in Fox, you will go onto the Elliott Highway.  Of the 47 boxes on the Elliott, about 13 are occupied, and when ADFG checked the boxes two weeks ago, each box had about 5 eggs in them.  The Elliott curves around a wide valley as it takes the traveler to the beautiful Manley Hot Springs.  
The photo above was taken as we began to circle the valley.  The highway goes to the right and down into the valley, then follows the far side of the valley as you move to the left in the distance.  When the non-game biologist with ADFG checked the boxes for occupancy, he plotted each nest box site in his GPS unit, which he left in the truck for us to use.  So, we were off on our quest to find the Boreal Owl nest boxes!

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