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Survey Instructions

1. Routes and stops 


All routes done last year should be run again this year if at all possible. If you would like to start a new survey route, please contact the coordinator. 

The routes will be at least 14.4 km long, consisting of 10 to 30 stops situated 1.6 km apart--note that this is slightly different from the first year's protocol in which all routes had to be 10 stops long; routes may now be up to 30 stops in length. Stops can be slightly farther apart if (and only if) the 1.6 km distance puts one at an inconvenient or dangerous spot. It is important to keep the 1.6 km distance as constant as possible so that any bias towards stopping at "favourite" owling spots is reduced. The distance between the stops was a compromise between being sure of not counting the same owl twice and keeping the overall distance traveled to a minimum. The 1.6 km distance may seem awkward, but it makes the protocol comparable to present Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) methods and will allow the protocol to be used easily in the US. Although this is a "made-in-Canada" protocol, it is likely that it will be adopted throughout North America as the standard way to monitor owl populations. 

Entire routes or parts of the route can also be surveyed by snowmobile, horse, skis, or snowshoes along cutlines or trails. However, we do not recommend doing the complete route on foot, as it is a considerable distance to go at night in late winter. 

2. Route descriptions 

All observers should have received a map showing the route on it and sheet describing the location of each stop. If you did not receive such a map, please photocopy the appropriate part of a topographical map, preferably one of 1:50,000 scale, mark the route on the map and submit the map with your survey results. The individual stops should also be clearly marked on the map, and a detailed description of their location written on the back of the map or on a separate sheet. These descriptions should be of the stop's position, not necessarily the habitat around them; and are needed so that the stop can be located as precisely as possible in the future if a new observer takes over the route or the road changes slightly. The positions of these stops will be digitized so that the information can be used in GIS-based studies. If observers have access to hand-held GPS units, the exact coordinates of each stop should be taken, and reported in UTM (NAD 83) units. PLEASE RETURN THE MAPS AND ROUTE DESCRIPTIONS with your results, corrected if necessary. 

3. Time of Night 

Owl call rates tend to be lowest in the middle of the night (midnight to 04:00). Surveys should be therefore conducted between a half hour after sunset and midnight; try to conduct the survey at the same time of night every subsequent year. 

4. Time of Year 

Routes should be surveyed at least once per spring in the appropriate month: February in south coastal BC, March in southern BC (Thompson-Okanagan and Kootenays) and in April in central and northern BC and the Yukon. Try to do surveys in subsequent years at about the same time (i.e. if you do your survey this year on March 10, try to do it next year within a week or so of that date). If you would like to do more than one survey on your route, please do it in a different month. For instance, if you are surveying on the south coast, you are required to do a survey in February, but could also do surveys (on the same route) in January, March, April or May. Please do only one survey per month; it will significantly bias monitoring analysis if only the best survey of several is reported. Also please restrict your surveys to the January to May period (except Flammulated Owl surveys; see below). 

5. Environmental Conditions 

Environmental conditions such as wind, rain, snow and temperature can directly affect owl call counts. Surveys should not be conducted in the following conditions: wind speed over a Beaufort Scale of 3 (see below), during precipitation events (although if a light snow or rain begins during the survey it can still be completed), or when the temperature is below -10oC (14oF). This will also reduce the risks involved with conducting the surveys. 

6. Counting Owls 

At each stop simply get out of your vehicle, then begin timing a 2-minute stop. If you hear an owl or grouse, note down which minute it was heard in (first, second or both) and estimate the distance and direction to the bird. 

7. Flammulated Owl Surveys 

Starting in 2002, surveys for Flammulated Owls will be done somewhat differently. New routes will be drawn up specifically for this species, and stops will be 0.8 km apart. Flammulated Owl surveys will be run between May 25 and June 25 and restricted to the Interior north to about Williams Lake. Please contact the coordinator if you are interested in taking on one of these routes.


Beaufort No. Wind Speed km/hr. Indicators of Wind Speed
0 Less than 2 Smoke rises vertically
1 2 to 5 Wind direction shown by smoke drift
2 6 to 12 Wind felt on face, leaves rustle
3 13 to 19 Leaves, small twigs in constant motion
4 20 to 29 Raises dust/loose paper, small branches move
5 30 to 38 Small trees in leaf sway



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