Barred Owl - Main Road, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. November 25th, 2010. Happy Thanksgiving! Image taken by Susannah B. Lerman using Panasonic Lumix DMC-F27.
Moving to Gill has presented us with a much more rural situation than we experienced in Amherst. Perhaps we've just been lucky but chance encounters with owls have much more frequent and I continue to be impressed with the Northern Saw-whet Owls in our area which I've now found in about five locations within a 1.5 mile radius of the house. Most of these have been seen and heard on my runs very early in the morning (pre-dawn) and I continue to hear birds to date (Nov 29th) indicating that at least some of these could be residents or winterers rather than just solely migrants. The habitat, or at least my understanding of habitat, seems ideal for Northern Saw-whets with fairly dense stands of young Eastern Hemlock within mature, mixed woodland.
Equally impressive has been the range of vocalizations from these feisty little owls. Most of them have not given the classic monotonous 'tooting' calls which I don't think is routinely heard in fall and winter. Instead calls heard have included a rather rich "skew", an agitated whine or wail, a woodcock-like "chitter" and a louder, more aggressive version of the "chitter" call delivered staccato fashion when the bird is especially agitated. One call did surprise me, a very quiet, subtle but constant "tseeet" which I would most liken to the anxiety call of American Robin (the calls heard from parents with young close by). I'm currently looking into ideas to actually record some of these vocals and upload them to the blog.
After a quiet spell, Barred Owls have started to show up once more with two sightings on Main Road in Gill on Thanksgiving Day. Susannah managed to capture some images of one of these near Gill Fire Station on the way home from Thanksgiving Dinner!