Photo: Gerald Romanchuk

International

The Beaverhill Bird Observatory has extended its efforts into international bird conservation and research for over two decades. 

Winter Ecology of Burrowing Owls

  • BBO has supported Environment Canada’s research on the migration and winter ecology of endangered Burrowing Owls
  • This research was led by two BBO volunteers and board members, Geoff Holroyd and Helen Trefry, and Mexican biologist Enrique Valdez-Gomez
  • BBO successfully secured funds from the US National Fish and Wildlife Foundation that supplemented the Canadian federal research funds. This research identified the wintering sites and migration routes of ‘Canadian’ Burrowing Owls. The research also contributed to the PhD thesis of BBO board member Jason Duxbury and Enrique Valdez-Gomez

Ecology of the Endemic Clarion Burrowing Owl

  • In 2008 and 2014, BBO supported studies of the endangered sub-species of Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia rostrata) on Clarion Island, Mexico
  • Clarion island is located 1100 km due west of Manzanillo, Mexico in the eastern Pacific Ocean. In November 2008 and January 2014, two BBO volunteer researchers , Geoff Holroyd and Helen Trefry accompanied Mexican biologist Enrique Valdez-Gomez and others to the island to determine the owl’s abundance, habitat use, diet, to collect feathers for stable isotopes analysis of diet, and blood for taxonomic analysis
  • In addition they conducted a survey of all the birds on the island, and documented the nesting Green Sea Turtles
  • They also identified conservation issues to help resolve human conflicts with wildlife
  • Posters describing the research were presented at the Society of Canadian Ornithologists annual conference in Edmonton 2009, at Raptor Research Foundation conference in Fort Collins, Colorado in 2010
  • The BBO volunteers gave four presentations at the Reunion in Manzanillo, Mexico in November
  • One result of their research was the creation of a committee of the relevant national management agencies in Mexico to address the conservation issues that were identified by the BBO team

Little Owl Ecology in Spain

  • With support from BBO, Geoff Holroyd travelled to Spain in 2007 to assist Hugo Framis with his study of foraging habits and habitat of Little Owls (Athene noctua) near Mataro, just east of Barcelona
  • Owls were trapped and VHF transmitters were attached. The owls foraging and nesting were documented in an area of intense vegetable market gardening
  • In October 2010, Hugo Framis completed his MSc thesis on the habitat and foraging of Little Owls that was based on the telemetry study that was initiated with BBO funds
  • Two owls with transmitters 'disappeared' causing Geoff to form the hypothesis that there may be a migration of Little Owls along the Mediterranean coast in autumn. Isotope feather analysis could show if some of the owls that we trapped are from northern Europe.  A migration of this species is not known at present, so demonstrating a migration would be 'new'
  • Hugo and other European researchers organized an International conference about Little Owls in 2011 near Barcelona, in the old city of Vic. The conference was held in a refurbished Roman building which was ~2000 years old. With BBO support, Geoff Holroyd attended the conference and gave a presentation about the tracking techniques used in North America to follow Burrowing Owls and how these techniques might be used to demonstrate that some Little Owls migrate in Europe contrary to current understandings. The proceedings of this conference were published by the Barcelona museum

Unknown Owl species in Ecuador

  • BBO also helped support research on owls in Ecuador in 2006
  • Two BBO volunteers, Geoff Holroyd and Helen Trefry traveled to Cabanas San Isidro, near Quito for one week. They trapped one young owl and took a blood sample to determine if the local owls are new subspecies of owl based on DNA analysis
  • A report was completed on the foraging and local population of these owls.The DNA analysis was conducted by the American Museum of Natural History to determine if these owls are Black and White or Black-banded Owls or a new species. The initial sample shows that the San Isidro owl was between these two parent species; since San Isidro is located in the Andes between the ranges of the two species, this owl could indeed be a new species. More samples are needed before a conclusion can be reached

Migration of ‘Canadian Burrowing Owls’

  • The Beaverhill Bird Observatory has been involved in international Burrowing Owl conservation for many years
  • Most recently BBO helped to fund the purchase of satellite transmitters that will tell us where and when Burrowing owls fly for the winter. In 2010, BBO funded two volunteers to travel to Baja California Sur, Mexico where one of these owls was spending the winter
  • The BBO has assisted the studies and travel opportunities of Burrowing Owl researchers to and from Mexico for over a decade

The TriNational Conservation of Burrowing Owls

  • In 2004, BBO partnered with the Commission for Environmental Cooperation to draft a paper titled “Towards a North American Action Plan for the Western Burrowing Owl” by Jason Duxbury and Geoff Holroyd. 
  • This preliminary effort was the basis of the North American Conservation Action Plan for the Burrowing Owl  
  • BBO also helped with funding for international attendees to travel to the Second International Burrowing Owl Symposium, Ogden, Utah and assisted with publication of the conference proceedings in the Journal of Raptor Research 35:(4)269-418
  • In 2007, BBO funded Geoff Holroyd’s travel to the World Owl Conference in Netherlands where he gave a plenary talk about the conservation and ecology of burrowing owls

Wintering Least Flycatcher

  • In 1993 and 1994, the BBO contacted a US Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala following the recovery of a Least Flycatcher banded at the BBO
  • In a partnership with the Biological Survey branch of the US Geological Survey, volunteer bird banders from the BBO lent their expertise to local Guatemalan conservation groups to help inventory resident and migrant bird species in potential conservation easements on Cerro San Gil
  • This opportunity to survey and band birds in Central American rainforests saw the BBO crew visit multiple forest sites on the Caribbean coast on Cerro San Gil, on the Honduran border and inland near Lago Isabel
  • Exotic species that they banded included Royal Flycatchers, Blue-crowned Motmots, Red-capped Manikins, Violet Sabrewings, and Chestnut-colored Woodpeckers