Owl Prowl Results
The temperature plummeted to about 26 degrees and the winds picked up to about 25 knots in preparation for our Owl Prowl. Present were Veronica Hinds and Jay Manning from the Norman Bird Sanctuary, and Beth Ripa, Ed Coombs, Harry Mutter, Winnie Andrew, and myself from Raytheon. We used the last light to investigate owl pellets, those clumps of fur and bones regurgitated by the owl after eating its meal whole. There was a particularly large one on the Woodland Wander trail just past the old well. Veronica verified it was from a great horned owl, but a very large specimen. No danger of Raytheon employees being carried off though. The sample was collected and pictures will appear soon of the contents.
As the sun waned, we set up a speaker and played calls for the saw-whet owl. The wind howled up the trail, requiring us to turn up the speaker to full volume. The Saw-Whet is a pint-sized owl with description following from Audubon:
Saw-Whet Owl Description:
8". Adult dark brown above; thick rusty stripes below; large white spots on shoulders; fine white stripes on crown; facial disk striped brown. Head large; eyes yellow; lacks ear tufts. Very tame when roosting in winter evergreens. Rarely seen.
Voice: In late winter and spring, mechanical too repeated 100 times a minute.
Habitat: Dense conifer stands.
Range: Resident in N. Eng. Breeds from southeastern Alaska, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia south to southern California, Arizona, Illinois, North Carolina (in mountains), and Connecticut. Winters in breeding range and south to Arkansas and North Carolina.
Nesting: 5 or 6 white eggs placed without a nest lining in a deserted woodpecker hole or natural cavity.
Discussion: Northern Saw-whet Owls are almost entirely nocturnal, spending the day roosting quietly in dense foliage. At such times, they are extraordinarily tame and may be approached closely or even handled. At night this tiny owl becomes a rapacious hunter, preying on large insects, mice, and other small rodents. Though widespread in Canada and all of the northern and western United States, its distribution is spotty. This pattern may be attributable to uneven or inadequate food supplies in areas with severe winter conditions.
We didn't hear a peep from the Saw-Whet after a half hour or so and decided to call for the Eastern Screech Owl on the Birchway Trail. From Audubon:
Eastern Screech Owl Description: 9". 2 color morphs: gray and rufous. Facial disk pale gray or orange, ringed in black; dark streaks on breast; row of white spots on shoulder. Tail short; eyes yellow; fluffy ear tufts.
Voice: Mournful whinny, rising then falling in pitch; also fast, even-pitch series of hu notes.
Habitat: Woods, swamps, cemeteries, towns
Nesting: 3-8 white eggs placed without a nest lining in a cavity in a tree or in a nest box.
Range: Resident from s ME and c NH south. Resident from Canada� southern prairie provinces east to southern Maine, and south to Gulf of Mexico and Florida.
Discussion: These common owls are fearless in defense of their nests and will often strike unsuspecting humans on the head as they pass nearby at night. When discovered during the day, they often freeze in an upright position, depending on their cryptic coloration to escape detection. The two color phases, which vary in their relative numbers according to geography, are not based on age, sex, or season.
We got no response from the Screech owls as well and decided to call it an evening. Though we heard no Owls, we found plenty of their sign and enjoyed a winter evening walk under a clear star-lit sky.