For the last few weeks I have been trying to put some thoughts together on barred owls. As you may have heard Massachusetts has seen a steady population growth of Barred Owls over the years (among other factors, farms seceding to forest has benefited the barred owl), but with in this growth there have been winters such as this, that are seeming booms where barred show up in what seems like abundance. There is a general (through some online investigation) thought there was a good nut/acorn crop last fall, fed lots of rodents + warm winter and spring, good year class of Barred’s this fall not so much nuts/acorn, lots of rodents with not much to eat, population diminish, lots of Barreds looking for food..sites like http://www.adirondackalmanack.com/2012/08/stacy-mcnulty-beech-nuts-mice-and-bears.html
seem to support such thoughts.
Now, Last year I struck out trying to find some long-eared owls (oh since I haven’t revealed the answer yet, the answer to the mystery I am pretty sure is a Immature Great Blue Heron) And recently I went back this year again to the area to find long-eared only to find a Barred Owl! It flushed before I got with in 100′ but I got a good but brief look at it as it landed in the open and quickly took off again, so I didn’t get a chance to get a pic.
As this happened a Picture popped into my head, I had recently admired doing some online research/information gathering on long-eared owls and barred owls. It really is an extraordinary photo, of a barred owl with a long-eared owl as prey. So I am glad I have an excuse and more importantly permission to use it here.
This photo was taken Nov 4th 2012 in Toronto,ON by Richard Sigesmund needless to say the photo and all copyrights remain his/ mr.sharp-photo.com. and the photo is used with permission. (Very much appreciated too). It is known that Barred owls will prey on smaller owls (including long-eared) but seeing it in this photo brings home the point.
So the Barred owl at least in part could explain the why there were no long-eared owl to be found that day I went looking.
On a larger scale, This barred population growth/expansion (and the supporting environmental factors) seemingly will make life more difficult for long-eared, (I won’t even go into the barred vs. spotted owl debate of the pacific northwest). I guess its a wait and see how Long-eared populations will survive long term.
So now its become a sort of goal, find a long-eared(s), it is encouraging that there has been a couple sightings recently at a very popular/easy access place that tends to get a couple-few sporatic sightings a year. But the challenge of finding them off the beaten path is more what I am talking about, and will make the friendly owl finding challenge with my wife all the more interesting.