With nesting season right around the corner, it's a busy time of year at the Owl Research Institute. Fortunately, we have Matt Larson, who has been checking lots of items off this to-do list!
Great Horned Owls will begin nesting in mid-February - a process that is already underway, as evidenced by the mating behavior seen on the explore.org Osprey cam. Because owls are not nest builders, they move into existing nests; around here, these are often the old nests of Magpies. Magpies build domed nests that have a side entrance to an inner cavity - and look like a big ball of sticks and twigs fairly high-up in a tree. Over time, these nests will break down and the inter cavity collapses. When this happens, a base is formed well suited to become a Great Horned Owl nest. Matt has been helping this process along, encouraging a good nest pocket and adding mud and leaves to help stabilize and insulate the nest. The Great Horned Owls of the area may, or may not, chose to call one of these nests home - we will just have to wait and see, but they now have some great options right around the Owl Research Institute!
Additionally, because many of our study sites are in remote locations - locations that are snow packed and hard to access well into spring, we rely on four-wheelers and snowmobiles to reach them. Each year this equipment needs tuning-up, charging and general maintenance to stay operational - Matt has been going through the line up getting everything in good working order. It's a laborious and often frustrating project, but one that is critical to the work we do.
As with most non-profits, we all love what we do and wear many hats - this week Matt has been wearing hat on top of hat, knocking out many important tasks, all with his trademark quiet demeanor and great attitude. The Owls of Montana are lucky to have Matt on their side (and, or course, so is the Owl Research Institute!)