short eared owl

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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Evenly Matched

Well that didn’t take long,once again the challenge is all tied up.
This time it was after an afternoon birthday party, it was closing in on 5pm so what better time and conditions as it was mostly overcast, to take a quick trip down Stackyard rd. in Rowley. Last year, reports abounded from here with a few short-eared owls that were seen relatively consistently, I even got to see one. This year, not so much. Anyway, with the oh so brief short-eared sighting from last weekend in RI got me thinking it was worth the relatively short drive. A little less than than 1/2 down the road at 5:23pm, my wife says theres one in the tree. This gets me a little excited for a split second, thinking there might be a short-eared perched in a tree near the road. But it was very quickly Id’ed, what else a Barred Owl. Needless to say, no short-eareds to report.

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Convoluted Competition

The past two days has really confused our point system with our (me and my wife) competition.

Yesterday,we had a get together down in RI to go too, but that would be ending before 3pm. So through a little online research found a nice little place to walk around with some evergreen stands that had long-eared potential, Ninigret wildlife refuge, that we could do a family walk afterwards before we headed home. Anyway as we were driving down the highway to the event, along with the usual road side red tailed hawks, my wife announces “barred owl” as we zoomed by it, no one else could confirm it. After the event as we were ending our family walk of ninigret (it didn’t disappoint as far as its potential but alas no long-eareds to be found but…) I announced “short-eared” but it was up ahead and flew by an area blocked by a little lot of trees,so no one else got to see it either. So we decide these two cancel each other out. and unfortunately no pics…which brings us to today, a walk around the inner trails Cranes Beach, and I quickly spotted a Barred owl hunting above the dunes
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(time to update the bird books?), it didn’t take to long before the family objection was announced that this was probably the same owl that was here the last time we were here. They had a point as it was only a couple hundred yards from where we saw the one back in November. No Point For Me! Well… until we were driving on the way home, I got this nice obliging barred along the road side that we all got to watch for a while as the snow was falling.
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Three Owl Hour

Site 3

After work, I headed to the much reported Stackyard Rd. Rowley, an area that for the last few weeks have had Short Eared Owls seen fairly regularly, I stopped by a couple time before with no luck, today there was one owl working the marsh to the north. It never got too close, started out 1/4 mile away and maybe got within 200 yards, decent looks through binoculars, but only a poor ID type photo especially with the setting sun. I had never seen a SEO before, I am not much of a list keeper, but I know which owls kinds I have and haven’t seen. (picture taken ~ 4:30 pm)

yes I know, can you even seen the owl?

After which I headed to Site 3 to get some more practice with night photos, The female was in the SQR nest box. This was the first time I had seen her in this box this owl season, and only the 2nd-3rd time she has spent the day in the box this season. She flew out pretty late (5:08 pm) as I was taking pictures I heard a Great Horned Owl to the north west. I heard it pretty clearly so it was fairly close, but not so close that I thought I could find it. The last screech owl picture was from 5:20 pm. So two types of owls seen and one heard, good way to start the weekend!

pushing the limits of owl stillness on this last one, 4 second exposure!