long-eared owl

Owing 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.

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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?

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Added Link: Long-eared Owl Banding

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.

Of Mice and Tunnels, (Winter Owl Thoughts)

Last year with the apparent barred owl boom, I had some thoughts as it related to long-eared owls. This is a vastly different season. It seems Snowy Owls had a great breeding year class way up north and they have come down in record numbers. Barred owls are not nearly as prevalent as they were last year, although they are still around just not ‘everywhere’ like last year.

Which brings me to long-eared, in which I recently scored with a long-eared. Alas no photo (no challenge point either) as it was unfortunately flushed as we were inspecting a different tree with wash/pellets, the ol switch-er-ooo. But it was nice to see one again. Later the same day, the family went to another area with decent long-eared potential, as we walked across a small field we noticed it was all crossed about with rodent tunnels through what snow (mostly re-frozen) was left.

One thing I did note last summer is that every fruit and nut tree (esp crab apples/pears) seeem to have a great fruiting season in my area. This may have help the rodent populations. Although It something that is more speculative/anecdotal, as I really don’t have real experience or been noticing field rodent tunnels before now. However, my yard is also crossed up with similar tunnels too. So now it something to look out for.

Second thing, we may be in-store for a ‘tough’ winter. I am writing this during a cold snow storm (20 degrees F )only to get colder (near 0 degrees F) and we live near the moderating effects of the ocean. If this trend continues, and the food supply is booming. It may shape up to be a good year for the other (than snowy) winter type owls (long and short eared, saw whet) as well, and who knows the cold and snow may even force a hawk, boreal or great gray owl down into Massachusetts…well that might be wishful thinking, but I guess I will go on record as not being surprised if the weather patterns remains colder.

Barred owls are still around, but not ‘everywhere’ like last year, (I was alone for this one, so does not count for the challenge)

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Tunnel close up.
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Rodent’s tunnel from above.
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Long Barring Musings

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.

Gruesome Mystery

So I was checking out a place I hadn’t been to for years, trying to find some long-eared owls, I found lots of scattered pellets here and there, but no concentration of them that would indicate a favorite roost. Then at first glance I thought I found a pair of owl roosting 10-15 feet up in a group of red cedars near a salt marsh. On second glance I thought it was some black trash bag, (I was on the shady side), then ok it has feathers but its not alive, I was looking at its back and it was dark, I was thinking dead owl? dead harrier? made my way around to the front and the front was light, sort of streaked, juv. cooper’s hawk?
Then I saw the feet not raptors talons, mmmm, I don’t think I could see the head. After some ID work I think I have the ID down. But I would like to see some other ID if others come to a independent conclusion. It may always be a mystery how and why it got there in the first place. And struck out on the owl front.

Warning a bit graphic, so I put them in a small gallery format, just click if you want to see larger versions.