Site 1 (near by)
Looks like a great horned owl has moved in a least for the day. Very close to where the barred owl in the last post had been roosting, and its not the first winter here that both great horned and barred owls have been using these urban woods to spend the winter. I am a bit confused as to why these urban woods are so ‘owly’ but it won’t stop me from enjoying it while it last. (No points for these owls towards the challenge.)
After a slow mid-season things have definitely heated up owl wise! The score was 3 points to 1 with my wife ahead. On March 5th my wife and I were on walk at dusk, when she says she thinks she saw something fly…I thought ahh she just saw a timberdoodle(aka woodcock) take off…But then I see a long eared owl hunting over a field/marsh. Upon review the owl sighting was declared a tie, 1 point for her 1 point for me. But then my wife sees a second long-eared with the first and points it out to me. She gets 1 additional point. I could only get an abstract silhouette of one of the owls as it landed in a tree briefly, in the dark conditions. But something is better than nothing, so at this point my wife is up 5 points to 2.
Until yesterday afternoon, when we took advantage of a questionable snowday with a family walk at a different place. I saw a puffy silhouette of a distant form about 80 feet up in a white pine. My first thought was, knowing my luck it was probably a turkey, I got the camera trained on it, then maybe a great horned because of its seemingly large “poofiness” but decidedly an owl. Then oooh cool a long-eared. Goes to show that size perception can be fooled based upon conditions. Got a decent photo anyway, relatively open roost. So now score is 5 points to 3. I don’t know if this is a sign of a long-eared population uptick, or just a bit of the law of averages working its self out?
So my wife was ahead in points 2-0 leading up today, both of her points were from snowy owls at the beach. I have already reported on the first snowy owl point. The second snowy owl point we actually saw 2 snowies in total that morning back on December 15th. But only one of them counted towards the challenge because the first snowy owl of the morning was actually pointed out by a reservation staff. The second snowy owl was indeed a good point for my wife as no one else was around and it was sitting on top of a dune.
above first owl pointed out by staff= no point
1 point owl(wife) much further down beach on top of dune, both from Dec 15th.
Fast forward until today as it has been fairly quiet recently in the owl sightings. We took a family walk along some local horse trails as we were coming to a smallish field. We all noticed horses up ahead with their riders enjoying the mild weather and practicing their riding technique. Anyway, I had to make sure our dog (which we normally leave at home) was secure on the leash and made sure I would be the one in control as we walked by the horses. Since I was being distracted with the kids, dog and horses, my wife sneakily found and pointed out a roosting Barred Owl. Now at that time I was down 3 points to zero. Thats a tough deficit to overcome. But I will keep fighting to the end… On the drive home I was able to spot an actively hunting Barred Owl that was fairly close to the road and was able to use the car as a blind of sorts. Phew, I at least won’t get skunked this year owl-point wise. So as it stands now the score is: wife 3 points to 1 point, me.
roosting barred owl.
roadside hunting barred owl.
…for me. I have seen a couple more barred owls, one by myself on a walk the other more frustrating one on a family walk. I saw it flying and land still over 100 feet away. I got my camera out and had it in the sight but the focus was off, instead of snapping a picture, I went for the re-focus, but it flew away and all I was left with was some pictures of empty blurry branches! Alas no one else saw it so no point! Today I did find a great horned on a lunch walk, which is a given no point, but it was fun to find regardless. I don’t think it is the same one as last year with an eye wound, but it was in the same area. If it is the same one as last year the injury healed well.
great horned owl roosting some 50-60 feet up in a pitch pine
I have seen 4 owls since this years owling challenge has started. However, none of these earned me any points upon further review. I was either by myself on a walk (1 barred, 1 great horned) or never could get photo documentation (2 barreds that flew across the road). The first point was awarded for a snowy owl that my wife sighted on a family dune walk as her first owl (and our first snowy owl) of the season. I am thinking of filing an official protest to the rules committee! Anyway, for the time being, she is up 1 point to 0 but there is a long season left.
The main target for fall migration owl banding seems to be the saw-whet owl. There are many stations through out Canada and the U.S that target the these little owls for banding. Usually with a mist nest and an ‘audio lure’ (a recording of the owls call that is on a continuous playback) to attract them. Sometimes other owl species are caught as well during these banding sessions, such as the long-eared owl. So up at the Hilliardton Marsh wildlife area in northeastern Ontario they decided to set up an area to target long-eared owls with good success. Kudos and hopefully this type of effort will continue! The link has been added to the link section of the blog for future reference.
Last years Owling Challenge between my wife and me ended in a tie, it was 3 to 3 going into mid winter, then the snows just kept going and it wasn’t really possible to walk with a 3 foot plus snow pack for the rest of the winter.
This years Owling Challenge has started and so far neither of us has earned a point. I have seen 2 owls in the last 3 days, first was a barred owl that the flew across the road as I was driving our kids home from school, alas no photo, no one else saw it, or so they say (they may be in the tank for their mom) so NO point. Then today it was a great horned owl I found (with the help of some blue jays and other irritated song birds) as I took a quick stroll at some trails that are right on my way home from work. But since I was alone, the strict judging criteria of the challenge means NO point. But I did get a quick shot in the fading light.
It is turning out to be a hotly contested owl challenge. With the unusually warm day, we took a family walk through the local beach and dune trails. Now, my wife had not gotten a point off of a snowy owl so far (including last year) so she was determined that she would this time. Her dedication paid off, as she grabbed her first point for a snowy owl (just happened also to be in great light). She pulled ahead 3-2. But the walk was not over and I needed to keep pace to keep the challenge competitive. I was able rebound from the earlier score, and picked up 1 point for a snowy as we were heading back to get things knotted at 3 points a piece to end the day as it started, all tied up.
The first owl as it was first sighted
Same owl as above, the trail did end up getting us a bit closer for a better photo .
The second snowy owl in some harsh light and set back further from the trail
It actually was a 2 barred owl day, but only one counted as a point towards the owling challenge…Road side owls are worth a point if they can be photo documented or all together in the vehicle and all see it. Well this one happened to be first thing this morning. It caught my attention as it flew along the road, in the opposite direction as I was driving. I found a safe place to turn around and was able to quickly re-locate it. There was hardly any light so a b/w docu-shot was the best I could do, but it was good enough for the strict judging standards for the challenge… I was able to get a better photo of the woodlot barred owl in last post. But no point for that one.
A barred owl isn’t leaving the woodlot just yet, as one was found roosting ~ 150 feet away from the well used roost last post, no owls were in that roost this time. But as they say, the plot thickens…