It wouldn’t hurt Emilio to come home from work almost in the evening, change his clothes, wrap himself up in a tight wrap, put a thermos of hot soup in his backpack, and go to the woods to listen to the night owls sing. Emilio is one of the volunteers in the Noctua program, which the Spanish Ornithological Society (SEO/Birdlife) initiates in the first days of every December to count nocturnal raptors and provide data that helps monitor these unknown populations in Spain. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Noctua aims to test the ‘health’ of these discreet creatures of the night, and for example the barn owl, the European playing little owl, the enigmatic red-necked bully or the snipe; the increase in eagle owl, long-eared owl and tawny owl.
In these five years, two thousand volunteers scoured the field in the last hours in search of the chirping of the night owls, Noctua’s coordinator, Virginia Escandell, explains that thanks to her annotations, 55,000 records have been compiled that “help us understand the dynamics of their populations over time, their conservation status, and the state of their habitats.”
This program, which continued to add followers every year as of December 1 and until the end of June, was reactivated. The last campaign brought together 400 participants. Profile “a little bit of everything”, but there are more men than women, and they are usually over 30.“Despite the fact that bird-loving youth are starting to see a movement,” they say from SEO. And after all, there are a lot of retirees who “get the most enjoyment out of the country,” but sometimes they have to do it at some ungodly hours, but they also have their charms.
Now the Ornithological Society is making its special claim ‘song’ to empower it across Spain with new collaborators encouraged to embrace the night in the middle of nature. “Monitoring in December and January focuses on eagle-owls, which are starting to heat up and sing very loudly. Long-eared owls and tawny owls are also easy to hear in winter,” says Emilio, a Noctua volunteer and SEO technician, who watches the birds in collaboration with citizens.
easy to identify
Participants, Those who can register on the NGO’s website choose the most suitable area for their residence, where they will have to go three times between December and June. SEO provides them with grids of the area and from there they each design their own route. They must stop in five different places with a distance of at least 1,500 meters between them. These are listening stations and you need to listen carefully for ten minutes each, write down the sounds, their genres and the number of people in an app.
For those who are not familiar with the claims on the Avefy platform, you can listen to their songs online. “Nocturnal species’ calls are pretty easy to learn”, Says Emilio, who suggests going outside at dusk, when nocturnal raptors start to become active.
He likes the sound of the owl, which is very recognizable as it is reminiscent of the sonar of one of the World War II submarines. This characteristic fluted tiuu-tiuu-tiuu can be heard towards March when the tiniest of our nocturnal raptors break their usual common sense to breed. Easy to hear in our towns, few people can boast of having seen this little owl, which is often unnoticed thanks to the excellent camouflage its feathers provide. In any case, ‘punctuation marks’ are sounds in the Noctua program, but there are also night owls that can sometimes be seen and noted,’ explains Emilio. “And if for some reason they don’t hear anything, I can assure you they will have the unique experience of the silence of the night in the middle of the field.” The advantages are that sometimes night doesn’t say it’s a snap.
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