Well this is a surprize….I haven’t even finished all the reports from last season…But now Site 3 has had an unexpected owl visitor the past 2 days. Mostly screech owls return to hollows(boxes) in October (in the Northeast) as the leaves and temperature start to drop. Previously the earliest owl visitor was August 13 in 2011. So this beats that early visit by 2 weeks!
Anyway, as a wrap up from last year, this site had an owl very consistantly through January, but then the owl ‘stopped coming.’ So this most likely is a new owl trying to claim prime real estate. Low light picture has a bit of blur from a slow shutter speed/hand shake. Hopefully better ones to come.
The red phase screech owl here has been quite the fixture, I believe it has only missed one day (the day after holloween) since he/she showed up Oct. 20th 2016. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come this spring. Anyway the pic is from 1/10/17. (Just a reminder this box is on the ‘new’ 4″x 4″ x 16′ pole set up.)
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.)
Well no screech owls here, but after last year almost complete absence of owls, (one great horned owl disappeared after one day) a barred owl has decided to winter near by. Other than last year this has been a regular occurrence. Now all we need is a pair of screech owl to fill in the void that was left by the last pair.
Over the offseason the owling challenge rules committee determined that an increase in scoring would add more interest. Thus in a unanimous decision it decided to allow points for owls in previously used hollows; provided the hollows had been inactive owl wise for at least a season. This decision has already made an impact. As I was able to pick up another point in a known roost. An owl was first seen here back in Dec. 2012, and was seen on and off into the early spring of 2013. Since then, the hollow seemingly had gone inactive until this past Wednesday when something looked a bit off. Turns out it was a very well camouflaged screech owl that was taking up part of the entrance. I am up 2-0.
Well I cleaned up Site 3 a bit. I replaced the owl box on a purple martin pole with a 4×4″ pole set up. It required 3, eight foot, 4″x4″ pressure treated poles, I dug the first eight footer in a couple feet (trying for at least three feet but the ground got inpeneratable about 2.5 feet down) like a fence post. The other 2 poles I connected together with four 1×4″s to make a 16 foot pole. Finally 2 bolts (top and bottom of post) to attach the 16 foot pole to the dug in ‘fence’ post. The whole set up should make the box easy to maintain and a bit sturdier. Then retro fitted the old circle entrance Squirrel Resistant box to a slot entrance and attached it to the 16 foot pole. Now there is only 1 owlbox at this site with one box camera…
Anyway the first owl of the season visited this new set up today. It’s a new red-phased owl, as last year the gray phased pair that had nested in the past, disappeared and did not nest here. So lets hope this owl sticks around!
new 4″x4″ pole set up with owl looking out
box camera view
The new red phase screech owl
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.