First 2 Occupants of the Season

Site 1 and Site 3,

Just a bit early but had 2 boxes with screech owls spend the day on Sunday Sept 23rd, 2018.  This is the first Screech owl activity at Site 1 since April 2015. Hopefully the owl will stick around and set up a territory, and not just traveling through the area.  Based on the screen capture of the in box camera, it does look like a red phase.


Site 3. Had an owl take up residence in July last year, this could be one of the pair last year, as they were a red phased pair (pretty sure).




Re-assigned Site 7

Site 7.

Site 7 had been discontinued, so it got re-assigned last year, and has had 2 successful nesting, one last year and one this year.

From the owner:

I forgot my box number but wanted to tell you that we have had success for 2 seasons in a row.
2017 we had 3 owlets that fledged and I believe the same female produced 3 owlets this year pictured below.
We have no camera inside so I am happy that we have these for reference. They fledged the day after their portraits were captured.
Thanks again for the update, it was a good year on this trail for nesting screech owls.

Substitute Site 9

Site 9.

Site 9 did not have a nest this year but the owner had a friend that lives near by, who also got a box from me around the same time (4-5 years ago) had an owl pair and nest for the first time since installation.  Although it is far enough away to most likely be a completely different owl territory than site 9, it is close enough to use it as a substitute site 9 for this year…

from the owner of Site 9.

you installed a box for M. many years ago ( 4 or 5 ) looked out her window and found an owl peeking out! The male is close by and they are vocalizing together! M. is so happy! I will keep you posted and I will send you a little video she shared with me! I am going over to get photos this weekend…Sad our owls left on March 20 (original site 9) and set up house somewhere else ! We have no idea why but hear them in the back near the wetlands and I see the male flying out at night!
Anyway, here is a screen grab from the video of the 3 owlets that fledged from this substitute site.

Back to the Good.

Site 3.

Looks like there are nesting owls here.  It has been tough to confirm this as the box had been very quiet through out March and April, and observations were sporadic. However,  it seems the young owlets are growing and the weather warming, which affords the mom some breaks to rest in the entrance.  I am pretty sure I heard the owlets, when the mom tucks back down to them as well.  She seems to be skittish/protective now that she is a mom, so she tucks back in quickly if observed too much.


Not Always Good News

Site 9

Unfortunately after a winter of activity, this site has gone quiet.  Got this note from the owner at the end of March, and still no owls as of today:

We have not seen the red owl for almost 2 weeks. He was calling even in the
daytime after the gray female failed to return to the box 2 weeks ago and
then the red male was in the box. The gray female vanished and then it
appeared that the male was searching for her? I have an SD card in the
camera and I only saw him on the recordings. I guess we will never know what
happened to the female but the poor male called day and night. I am still
holding out hope that another owl will occupy the box as our owlets last
year did not hatch until May and fledged in June!

How Did a Saw-Whet Owl Get its Name: Submitting Evidence?

One of the owl worlds ‘great’ mysteries (or not) is how did a saw-whet owl get its name. Of course there are answers: John J. Audubon wrote:

The Little Owl is known in Massachusetts by the name of the “Saw-whet,” the sound of its love-notes bearing a great resemblance to the noise produced by filing the teeth of a large saw.


I was much astonished to hear these sounds issuing from the interior of the grist-mill. The door having been locked, I had to go to my miller’s house close by, to inquire if any one was at work in it.

The problem is there is disagreement among those that study these owls as to which of the many sound saw-whets make that is the actual call that gets its its name. I found this thesis online the outlines the discussion very well:

The Northern Saw-whet Owl is named for a “saw-whet” call, although there is dispute about which call this is, as Saw-whets make a variety of calls, and the literature is ambiguous as to which vocalization is the true “saw-whet” call. The call is said to be likened, however, to a saw being sharpened or “whetted” (Cannings 1993).
The first call that many people claim is the “saw-whet” call is an advertising call that consists of a repetitive series of notes pitched at 1100 Hz. This call is given at a rate of two calls per second and is made primarily by males although females will make a similar call during courtship. The female’s variant is much softer, however, and less consistent in both amplitude and pitch than that of their male counterparts. The male’s version of this call is very loud and can be heard 300 meters away in a forest and up to a kilometer away over water. Territorial males will respond to a recorded playback of this call with a softer, lower pitched version that is more rapid, at four to five notes per second (Cannings 1993).
The second call thought to be the “saw-whet” call is a nasally whine or wail. This call is produced at about the same pitch as the previous call, but lasts for two to three seconds. The pitch will change during the call as more harmonics are added, as will the volume (Cannings 1993).

The last vocalization suggested to be the Saw-whet’s namesake is probably the closest sounding call to the sound of a saw. It consists of a brief succession of loud calls that usually consists of three calls per series. This call is made by both sexes. This particular call has been described as a “ksew-ksew-ksew” call (Cannings 1993).

Like a lot of owlers I have heard both calls and then some, and none of them reminded me of a saw or anything else being filed or sharpened on a whetstone. So I went to youtube to see what I was missing, and much to my dismay after seeing lots of videos of how to sharpen things I still was left not finding a similar sound to the owl. Until I saw one with an antique treadle grinding(whet) stone. It wasn’t the sound of the actual grinding that made a sound that was similar, it was the harmonic squeak of metal on metal that suggested (with out much imagination) with the right speed and rhythm would do a very nice tooting imitation, this would also explain the sounds from the “gristmill” confusion in Audubon’s account too, as a rotating grain grinding wheel that needed lubricant may also produce a similar sound. Anyway here is the video: I would love to hear from others that may have more insight than me on the subject or other evidence one way or another.

Owling Challenge: a ‘Pitcher’s Duel’

Last years owling challenge result, I won 2-0.
This year was off to a tense start with neither my wife nor myself able to pick up points, there were owls around, a good year for snowy owls too, but upon replay none qualified for points until yesterday. 1 point for a road side hunting barred owl for me. Found on my drive into work first thing in the morning. According to section 5: We have to be together for an owl to count as a point with the one exception being road side owls. Such as a new screech owl in hollow or a hunting owl. So this clearly qualifies. Anyway score is 1 to 0 in the bottom of the 7th.

No points for these owls as we were not together, seen earlier in the year
Barred owl:

Long-eared owl:

One challenge point for me for this road side barred owl: