Z Other owls

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.

and

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.

http://www.audubon.org/birds-of-america/little-owl

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).

http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1170&context=honors

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.

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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:
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Long-eared owl:
leow

One challenge point for me for this road side barred owl:
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Been a While

Site 1

It has been very quiet at this site, owl wise this season.  The resident screech owls disappeared back in 2015. Unfortunately, it seems, no new screech owls have found this prime real-estate yet. Sometimes Barred or Great Horned owls spend some time in some woodlots near by in the winter. This year nada. Well until just recently, to save being completely owl-skunked a snowy owl showed up…well quite a distance away but no doubt an owl!  This year has been very good for snowy owls, not quite up to the record breaking 2013-2014 snowy year but close.  So just a distant docushot snowy owl pic.

P1180949 (1)

Site 9 story and 2017 recap

After taking a bit of a break from owl-land, I think I am ready for a new owling season, but before the new season is too far advanced here is some of last years loose ends tied up.

Here is the Run Down from the site 9 owner:

Here is the run down

10/31 Gray/Brown morph female was in the box for until 11/28/16 when the camera fell down and I had to retrieve it. When we opened the box, there was an owl there so we were quiet and closed the box and left them alone.

December 29, 2016 we had a gray male visits the box at night as well as a red female who moves in on January 16, 2017. We are able to record the activities at night with our owl cam that has an SD card so we can replay the events from the evening. All is well until the female stopped coming to the box. The male came every night over and over calling for the red female but she did not return ( something must have happened to her).  The male continues to call until 3/26/2017 when a gray female appears in our box in the morning. We had a bad storm that night and a lot of trees came down. We now have 2 gray( brown morphs) phase owls.

 On 4/8/2017 the female laid her first egg today and then every 2 days laid an egg for a total of 4 eggs.

 5/6/2017 the first egg hatched at 28 days.  5/17 the 2nd egg came, 5/8/17 the 3rd egg- but the 3rd owlet died on 5/11/17 then a 4th owlet was born on 5/12/17.

 All 3 babies were up in the slot on 6/7/17the first owlet fledged into the tree, 2nd owlet fledged on 6/8/17 and the little one ,  6/12/17 number 4 owlet  ( much smaller than its siblings) fledged at 8:55 pm

 It was an exciting owl season and these owls were amazing parents and so dedicated to their owlets. In fact when Blue Jays and Crows tried to get the owls, daddy came into the box with the whole family to lay flat and stay small to protect his family.

and the 2017 nesting summary:

It was a decent year, site 5 (maryland) site 8, and site 9 had successful nesting. Site 3 had activity into the winter but something happened to the owl that was using the box so there was no nesting attempt.

Site 1
Massachusetts
No Nesting this year, no screech owls present at all for the first time since box has been up. Both a Barred owl and Great Horned Owl appeared near by during the winter.

Site 2
Massachusetts
No screech owls…still(recent) calling of barred owls through out year.

Site 3
Massachusetts
Screech Owls: Red phase was present october-january but disappeared before nesting season…. no nesting this year.

Site 4

Discontinued

Site 5
Maryland successful nesting but details lacking
Screech Owls,
Male= ?
Female=red phased
First Egg ???
# of Eggs…………. ??
First Hatch ???
# Hatched ………… at least 2
Fledged ……………. at least 2

Site 6
Massachusetts
No screech owls, great horned owl(s) still heard occ.

Site 7
Discontinued

Site 8
Massachusetts
Screech Owls, nesting occurred,
Male= Gray phased (browner)
Female=Gray phased
First Egg …………?
# of Eggs…………?
First Hatch…………?
# Hatched …………at least 3
Fledged ……………. 3 (almost certain)

Site 9
Massachusetts
site 9 relocated back in 2014, Some owl turnover through the years, but ended up with successful nesting.
Male= gray phased
Female= gray phased
First Egg:…4/8/17
# of Eggs……………. 4
First Hatch: ….5/6/17
# Hatched…………….4
Fledged ……………….3

2017 Totals:
screech owl eggs ……7 + (massachusetts) + Maryland
screech owl fledged…..6 (massachusetts)+ Maryland.

Strange ‘Normal’

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.)

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2016 Challenge Begins

Well… last year I lost 5 points to 3 to my wife.  That bitter taste lasted all summer long, so I was very focused and intensified my offseason training to do better this year. So far the intense training has given me the quick lead in this years owling challenge.  Or perhaps she was distracted by collecting driftwood.  Either way the first point was earned with a snowy owl at a local beach.  It seems it may be the 4th winter in a row with at least better than average snowy owl sightings.  So I am up 1 point to 0 early in the game.

p1150715

Owling Challenge: 4 points 3 long-eared

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.

P1110706

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?

P1110813

2 Barred Day: Challenge Check-in

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.  P1100497
above first owl pointed out by staff= no point
P1100595
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.

P1110306 roosting barred owl.
P1110368
roadside hunting barred owl.

More Owls Still No Points

…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
P1100432

First Point

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.

P1100348