Saturday, April 11, 2009

Long-eared Owl + Hawkwatching

Posting at two-week intervals seems to be becoming the norm for me.

April 2nd I saw my first owl--a Long-Eared Owl in the aptly named Owl Woods at Braddock Bay. I most likely would have walked right by if it had not been for the sharp eyes of the gentleman I was birding with. For the life of me, I can't remember his name, and I really hate that I can't. It makes me feel like such a jerk. I met him at the banding station after I stopped by and was lucky enough to get a personal tour. We left the banding station and decided to explore the pines of Owl Woods near the beginning of the trail together.

We stood in among the trees looking up, scanning them for any bumps along the trunk and things like that. I looked down in his direction (since I'm a young woman who was walking alone in the woods, I did make sure to keep him in my sights at all times, just in case. Nothing personal of course, just common sense.) to see him waving me over excitedly and staring fixedly up into one of the pines. I did my best to walk over quietly, and he pointed out the Long-Eared Owl. I was thrilled.

The owl allowed us an extended, close look. It even permitted us to move around the base of the tree to try to get a better look through the tree branches, cracking twigs and branches on the ground and making a fair amount of noise. Looking back on it now, I realize that we somewhat took advantage of the owl's patience, and we should have given him his space. This past Thursday night I remarked on my regrets to another birder I'm getting to know, who is one of the many regulars at Braddock Bay. His point of view was that the owl is much more in control of the situation than we are in those kinds of meetings, and that if the owl feels uncomfortable and wants to leave, it is more than able to do that. It's another way to look at things, but I still think I'm going to be more respectful of an owl's roosting space in the future.

I am getting to know a few of the Braddock Bay Hawkwatch regulars now. I stop by the platform when I can, and take advantage of their collective knowledge and experience. Several of the regulars have been coming to the Hawkwatch platform for raptor migration season for years now. I feel a little bit of that middle-schoolish desire to belong when I'm there--not social anxiety or a need to fit in, but I definitely want to be a part of the group. They're all friendly folks, lovely to spend time with. It's great to simply sit up on the platform on a nice day, heads tilted back, eyes scanning the skies, gossiping, joking, and swapping stories.
Turkey Vultures soaring overhead at the Hawkwatch Platform

April 9th I saw my lifer Northern Pintail and my lifer Pied-Billed Grebe while hanging out at the station. Both birds were spotted by other people who pointed them out to me (thanks!). Later that evening I attended a Saw-Whet Owl Banding presentation put on by Braddock Bay Raptor Research (BBRR). It was a great program and I learned a great deal.
Yesterday I invited a friend over to photograph the birds at my feeders.
I laughed out loud when I took this picture. I just love the goldfinch looking out from in between the branches like that. It's nice to see their breeding plumage coming in.
I'm thrilled to be seeing Chipping Sparrows again. They were the first species I was ever able to observe "at length." They hung around in the trees in my front yard last summer. I used to sit in the driveway and just watch them, wondering if the neighbors thought I was crazy.

Then we went out to Braddock Bay. We spent some time at the Hawkwatch, but things we pretty quiet because of the ENE winds, so after a bit we went to Owl Woods. We were delighted to see several Brown Creepers, lots of Golden Crowned Kinglets, and three Hermit Thrushes.
I also went birding at Montezuma NWR on March 31st, but I'll have to post about that later. I've got a nasty cold and am determined to rid myself of it ASAP--so it's back to bed for me.

Take nothing but pictures (and maybe the trash of jerks who came before you), leave nothing but footprints.


  1. You have a great collection of different birds here!! Great photos!! I love that Horned Owl!!

  2. A lovely mixed bag there, great shots of the Long-Eared Owl.