Saw what? Saw-whet! Owl Banding Program

Saw what? Saw-whet! Owl Banding Program at Valley Falls State Park Oct. 15 and 29

West Virginia DNR
West Virginia DNR

Fairmont, W.Va. –-( Sometimes great wonders are big eyed, very small, and feathered. For most people, just hearing a single note call of a Northern Saw-whet owl (NSWO) is reward enough, but being able to see this small raptor up close is even more special. Opportunities to do just that are being offered during two evening programs at Valley Falls State Park on Oct. 15 and 29.

Bird enthusiasts are invited to assist in banding programs for the Saw-whet owl during those evenings, to be conducted by owl expert Joe Herron. In 1992, Herron went to Canada and saw his first Saw-whet owl and it was the start of a lifelong interest and observation of this bird. Herron has discovered Valley Falls State Park is in the migratory flight route and offers all the right conditions for monitoring and banding. Valley Falls offers high elevation and mature forest cover which adds to the possibility of hearing, sighting and perhaps banding and immediate release of this nocturnal creature.

“Herron has been monitoring and banding at this area for more than four years,” says Valley Falls State Park Superintendent Ronnie Fawcett. “It’s a very quiet survey by a fellow who takes a lot of time and care in his banding and documentation. I think it is a nice gesture to invite folks to join him this year for a couple of evenings and maybe get to see a Saw-whet owl. It is something you’ll always remember.”

Herron will be banding NSWO on Oct. 15 and 29, Thursdays, weather permitting. Individuals interested in observing and assisting Herron should dress warmly, bring a flashlight, a container of coffee, and a folding chair. Attendees will meet at Valley Falls State Park in Marion County near Fairmont. For information about meeting time for either event, what you should bring to the program, and to register to attend, please e-mail [email protected] or call 304-203-5251

For more information about special events and programs at West Virginia State Parks, go online at and click on Calendar of Events.

About the banding
Joey Herron follows NSWO protocol developed by David Brinker for banding Northern Saw-whet owls. Several nets are placed and, if there is a capture, the bird’s age and sex are determined, wing measurements recorded, and then it is banded and released. There are more than 50 banding stations across the eastern U.S. and Canada.

Thirty-five Saw-whets were captured and released by Herron in 2008. Since 2004, when a banding station was established at Valley Falls State Park, the capture rate ranges from three to 49 individuals and previously banded birds have included birds banded in Canada, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio. Saw-whet migration runs from early October through November.

About Joey Herron
Raised in Lewis County, West Virginia, Lewis County, Herron is employed by the Social Security Administration, has more than 35 years of birding experience, sight and sound. He earned a BS in Biology from Glenville State College (’80), is a certified substitute teacher for Marion County Schools and is a licensed master bird bander with the U.S. Geological Service, bird banding lab. His affiliations and activities are numerous and range from Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and West Virginia Partners in Flight to Breeding Bird Survey conducted each June for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, instructor for an annual Elderhostel at D & E College, Elkins, W.Va. , competes in dozens of road races yearly, having run in the Boston Marathon in 2005, and coaches Junior High girls basketball. Herron is published in Redstart, a quarterly publication of Brooks Bird club.