Posts Tagged 'owls'

Who Indeed?

Bubo virginianus
Winter’s day ~
an owl’s yellow eyes
watching me.

Nest Door To The Owl

Accipiter cooperiiNot fifteen feet from the Barred Owl, buried in some Yews, was one of Mr. Cooper’s Hawks (Accipiter cooperii). The hawk was closer to me — I was closer to it than it was to the owl — so it looked substantially larger than the owl, but the owl is a larger bird. Was the hawk hiding from the owl? Accipiter cooperiiEvergreens are great places for birds to roost in winter because of the cover they provide.

Strix varia

Strix variaA hot tip from someone who wishes to remain anonymous clued me into this Barred Owl (Strix varia) located… somewhere in NYC.Strix variaI had to agree to be blindfolded before being led to the site; it was either that or ride bundled into the trunk. This close-up shows what looks like a small delicate bill, but owls actually have large, gaping mouths — the better to swallow their prey whole. Strix variaThe bird was in full sunlight, soaking up that winter warmth. Owls in daylight are often tucked away so they won’t be harassed by their legion of enemies. In fact, I looked hard into the Yews besides this owl to see if there was another. I found something completely different, which I’ll blog about tomorrow.Strix variaThis is one of my best ever views of any owl species, up there with last year’s shameless display of Snowy Owls and the owl ranch down in Texas. Strix variaTurns out they have real bobble heads, turning round and up and down with great facility. Strix variaThe Barred Owl is found throughout the East and across the southern span of Canada, the northern Rockies, and the Pacific NW and up through BC. They are a woodland bird, favoring mature hardwoods in the north and bald cypress in the SE. Their call is famous, a veritable sentence, inevitably described as “Who, Who cooks for you?”

Saw-whet

Aegolius acadicusEleven owls, from five species, were tallied during the Kings County Christmas Bird Count a week ago. Pretty impressive! Here’s one of the two Northern Saw-whets (Aegolius acadicus).Aegolius acadicusThis is the smallest (8″ length, 17″ wingspan), and probably the most common, owl in the northeast. The bird’s common name is a real throwback: the tooting call of the animal is said to resemble the sound of a saw being sharpened on a whet-stone. “Saw-filer” is a variation. Very few people sharpen saws today, so the comparison may be moot; but if you’ve ever seen a submarine movie, the bird’s sound is very much like the ping of sonar.

All of my owl adventures are found in the archives.

Owl Ranch

Glaucidium brasilianumSan Migeulito Ranch is all owl, no cattle. A dozen miles from anywhere in Kenedy Co., and down a treacherously sandy road — we got stuck, as predicted, and needed a pickup to pull and five of us stout-hearted lads to push (this is when I think I picked up my tick and my chiggers, I’ll spare you pics of the savaged ankles) — it’s home to a pair of nesting Ferruginous Pygmy Owls (Glaucidium brasilianum). The birds are rare indeed for the U.S. They are also unusual for owls because they’re active in daylight. The ranch gives tours.Glaucidium brasilianum(Above shot through a spotting scope: I think I’ve finally figured out digiscoping.)
Glaucidium brasilianum

But wait! With this FPO, you also get:Megascops asioEastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio)! This nest box was no more than fifteen feet from the FPO nest box: the species seem to care less about each others’ proximity.Megascops asioBubo virginianusThe same thing could not be said for the local Great Horned Owls, which will eat little owls and big owls and any and everything else. There was a nest with two young in a nearby barn. Another nearby barn had had Barn Owls: ant lionsthe ground was littered with the tiny white bones from their prey, but there was no sign of them that day. (The pits are made by Antlions.)

On the way out, which is when we got stuck, we were shown another GHO nest, with another two young ones, perhaps a week from fledging. Bubo virginianus

Bonus Owl: here’s a GHO adult still sitting on eggs in a Sable Palm at the Sabal Palm Sanctuary:Bubo virginianus

Owl in the Hole

Bentsen State ParkTwilight. We were in Bentsen State Park, looking for Elf Owls (Micrathene whitneyi). These are our smallest owls, 1.4oz (compare with House Sparrow, .98oz, and Great Horned Owl, 3.1lb). There was a nest in a snag, perhaps originally carved out by a woodpecker. An owl was periodically poking out as the sun set. Micrathene whitneyi“Owl in the hole!” The distinctive “eyebrows” are visible even in this long-shot in low light. The other half of the pair showed up just as our human vision began to fail in the dark. We heard the birds calling as they prepared to hunt through the night.

Lesser Nighthawks were also in the air, zooming after insects. These southwestern nighthawks have more rounded wings and a white wing bar nearer the wingtip than the slightly larger Common Nighthawk. We heard the yip of coyotes in the distance and the onomatopoeic call of a Chuck-will’s-widow, very near. We were also on the look-out for Common Pauraques, another night-flying insectivore, found only in the southeastern tip of Texas (in the U.S., anyway). One did fly over our heads, heading downwards to the road, but we would have better views another day. Bentsen doesn’t allow cars (there’s a large golf cart type of tram during the day), giving us the freedom of the night road. There were a few fireflies. We heard the distinctive tremolo of an Eastern Screech Owl, which came to investigate us.

A magical night, with only a few mosquitoes and Ninja-garbed La Migra agents (as omnipresent in the Rio Grande Valley as Great-tailed Grackles). We had been accidentally locked out of our van; as we waited for the lock-popper, we looked at all four Galilean moons of Jupiter through a spotting scope.

Last of the Snowy Owls

grasslandsWind-swept and plastic-strewn grasslands at the edge of the city. Can you spot the Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)?Bubo scandiacusNot all of the white blobs here are (unfortunately ubiquitous) white plastic bags. This heavily-barred Snowy is one of this winter’s massive influx of the birds from the Arctic.
Bubo scandiacusThis bird and its cohort will be trying to head north soon. Unfortunately, we have to expect that a good number of them will not make it to their breeding grounds. For one thing, as a young bird, born last year, it’s never actually flown home before. And many are the hazards between here and there.
Bubo scandiacusOn the other wing, this individual has clearly survived a winter in Brooklyn, one that has to have been rather more stressful than your average winter in northern Canada, what with NYPD helicopters doing low practice runs overhead, eager idiots tramping after you and flushing you all day long, and so forth. So maybe, with some good luck, this honorary Brooklynite will see the the north again. MAOne of my owing co-conspirators, Marion, has memorialized the scene out there, crowded with Kestrels. Can you find the owl?

I spent a week with the Snowys for Christmas:
Dec. 24
Dec. 25
Dec. 26
Dec. 29

And all the owls here at B&B.


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