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.
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.
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.
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
The family took a late afternoon walk as we got a break from the unseasonably cold weather we have been having. I got my first point in this years owl challenge. It was a snowy owl. This year probably won’t be as snowy owl filled as last years record irruption year. However, if early indicators are fairly accurate then it could be a better than average year for snowies. So for now 2 points for my wife, and 1 point for me.
Things here seem fairly normal, with the female spending a few days a week in the box. I have not seen the (red phase) male since early season (October) but this is fairly typical as well. The winter barred owl nearby is also around, although the snowy owl sightings in the area have lessened quite a bit as well.
female sunning herself a bit during the ‘January Thaw’
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)
Tunnel close up.
Rodent’s tunnel from above.
Maybe I will be able to get back to screech owls soon, this recent string of snowies is just too
much (in a good way)… This one was waiting for me when I arrived at work first thing thursday morning. The change in its posture from the first to the second photo was due to a couple of crows that came by to take a couple dives at it and voice their disapproval. It stuck around till about noon.
EDIT: thought I would put up the NY vs Boston link about airport owl policies…http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2013/12/09/logan-airport-snowy-owls-new-york-shooting-owls/
The challenge is going to be figuring out how to award points. Given the number of them, we are being very strict with points, so we have to be together, and there has to be a clear cut first to see. So no points for us! with any of these snowies, the first was too close a call to whom really saw it first, as it was tough to make out without the camera, we both were checking it out before confirming it was indeed an owl(2 photos, same owl, different vantage point). The next two are ones I pick up by myself, as they are quite close to Site 1.
and owlscape, same owl as above
very distant document pic about 1,500 feet away in the dreary drizzle.
taking a rest on an ocean park bench in dreary drizzle.
It looks as though the winter of 2013-2014 is going to be quite a good year for snowy owls. The last irruption year was 2011-2012. We are not too far removed from the last good year. This year it seems the east coast is snowy central, from NJ to ME reports are poring in. It was like someone turned on the snowy owl switch. It is fitting that the first point for the owling challenge between my wife and myself goes for a snowy owl. I got the point. We were taking a family walk through some beach trails. My wife gets all distracted having fun with our kids, while I was up ahead a bit and see a low flying white bird. I lost sight of it briefly as it dipped down into a dune valley only to rise up and settle on the top of a dune ridge. It was pretty far away maybe 150-200 yards, and no trails that passed closer to it, but good enough to get a document pic. Everyone got to see it as well.