Sunday, March 23, 2014

Double Screech

Anyone who's been following this blog for any length of time will have heard me grumble, well, at least mention more than once that I've not seen a screech owl  at two very well known locations.  I think pretty much everyone but me that birds in the area has seen both.  Well, that might be some sour grapes overstatement in play, but...  There is one in a prominent tree down at LaSalle Park, and another in Woodland Cemetery in Aldershot. Over the few years I've been enjoying this hobby, I've stopped numerous times at both locations, trying to coincide my visit with the time of day when the sun would be angled for prime sunning hour.  No results.

Recently, I heard a second pair of Screech Owls had been found at Woodland Cemetery***, or at least their nesting spot has been located recently.  I had to try again.  This time I used one hour of a previous, crazy long night at work to leave the office early and headed off for another try on Friday afternoon.  When I got to the location, a few other photographers already setup with camera barrels aimed at the subject made it easy to find the bird that has eluded me for more than two years.  I'd like to think I would have found the bird on my own, but the image below is the beautifully camouflaged scene I would have had to have found.

*** A quick note to those using this location information to find these birds, or for those who have already been and plan to return: As most know, these owls are active at night, and need rest during the day to stay healthy. Although enjoying creation is something I'm 100% for, it shouldn't be a selfish pursuit on our part.  It was suggested to me (and I was tempted) to take down the location, but it's a trade off between enabling more people to see and enjoy the beauty of God's creation and learning to appreciate these birds, or keeping this information to a small circle of people because a small number will abuse the privilege.  So... Please be respectful of the birds and don't do things like playing predator sound tracks or whacking on the tree to wake it up.  And don't be embarrassed to calmly encourage others of the same if they aren't following this line of thinking.   It seems the other owl pair has been successfully living with its paparazzi following for a number of years now, and if we all use some common sense, hopefully these ones will put on a show year after year as well.  

Eastern Screech Owl (grey morph) - Sleeping sentry?

Well, needless to say, I was quite pleased to get to see this beautiful little owl. It didn't seem to mind its little little admiring audience in the slightest, so we all snapped away while sunned in the sunny afternoon warmth. A couple times some activity like walking neighbours with dogs would  cause it to partially open its eyes to casually take a peak at the happenings - often only with one eye opened.

Eastern Screech Owl

This grey male is on guard at the nest mouth where its red morph mate is reportedly sitting on eggs as it has not been seen for a few days.  The larger female will incubate the eggs the entire time, depending on the smaller but better hunting male to keep it fed.  From what I've heard, it seems the female has been out of sight for a little less than a week which means that in about a month, anywhere between two to six owlets will be needing to be fed regularly.

Eastern Screech Owl
(on this shot you can see its bloody beak from its last meal)

I had almost forgotten the original owl location I had previously stopped by so many times before, and decided I'd better walk over and check it out.  Well, my day got doubly better... this bird was out well even though it had no no sun rays to soak in.  This bird's hideout faces southeast where as its neighbour's faces southwest.  The male of this pair is a red morph, again with the opposite morph colour for its mate.  Owls' vision is extremely good in low light, but it is at the cost of being unable to see very much colour. So it is likely neither of the two pairs know they're matched up with the opposite colour - not that that is a problem of course!

red morph Eastern Screech Owl
(two years of waiting to see this bird!)

Needless to say, I was pretty excited to finally see these little raptors, and then not just one, but two, and on top of that, see both colours - all in one day!  So will the usual trend hold true now? ...the bird you've been trying to see for ages will pop up many more times?  Well, I'm not anticipating many other sightings of this species, but hope that when I stop by in the future again (it's just off of my route to and from work) that the general trend will mean I'll be more successful in seeing one of the two pairs again.  Seeing some fledglings would be a bonus!

Don't worry, I'll be sure to share the sightings if I'm able to capture them!
Till then...
Keep enjoying HIS handiwork!


  1. Wowzers Brian! They ate cute! :)

  2. I would NEVER have seen them. What camouflage!

  3. Glad you were able to see them Brian.


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