Friday, October 26, 2012

MA - Barred and saw-whet owls - Gill

The last couple of days have seen more Barred Owl activity around Gill and, with increased reports cropping up on the New England listserves including  urban and coastal locations, I can't help but wonder whether this species is also involved in the current 'wave' of irruptive species from further north. Yesterday (Oct 25th) evening, Susannah heard a Barred Owl calling close to our yard on Main Road at about 8 pm. Then, this morning (Oct 26th) on my pre-dawn dawn run, I heard three individual birds in the vicinity of North Cross Road, Gill. All three were giving an extremely loud, far carrying "whoooo" call, quite drawn out and descending, and rather different from the rhythmic, 'classic' 'who-cooks-for-you' call.

Still on the theme of owls, on October 24th, I made my first outing of the fall for Northern Saw-whet Owls and met with success at the very first plot I tried on Mountain Road in Gill. The mixed forest with dense stands of young Eastern Hemlocks seems perfect for saw-whets. From here I tried a couple of commercial sound recordings and then switched to my own imitation of the 'classic' saw-whet tooting notes. After fifteen minutes I gave up and started to walk away from the plot. As soon as I reached the road, and with my back turned to the plot, a saw-whet gave three clear 'kew' calls in rapid succession; "kew, kew-kew". It's not the first time that I've been turned around by a saw-whet in this manner but it felt good to get such a positive response. I returned to the hemlocks once more and came away with exactly the same result - no visual and no audio! After five minutes, I walked away from the plot once more. Just a couple of minutes later, and with me standing comfortably on the road, the same saw-whet let out an explosive series of 'kew' notes, perhaps eight or nine in succession. 

I love these cunning little owls. Each and every observation is different and unpredictable, or at least that's usually the way it works out for me. Most 'contacts' are heard-only observations but every once in a while, a saw-whet will fly in silently, and just sit on a branch in full view making all the effort worthwhile.

I'll be going out again soon........



Bob Hilscher said...

Hi there, Good to hear that you had luck in finding Northern Saw-whet Owls. I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and this past Friday, my wife and I also had luck and came upon an adult Saw-Whet Owl out in the bush. This was the first time as birders that we had ever seen a Saw-Whet Owl. Fortunately, we had our camera with us and got some good pictures and video. We have posted them for anyone interested at:

James P. Smith said...

Hi Bob,

Your saw-whet observation is the sort that I dream about! I've never found one at a day-time roost myself, though did have one pointed out to me a couple of years ago at Salisbury Beach, MA.

I can't tell you how many young pines and cedars I've checked for roosting saw-whets! If I get lucky this fall, I'll be sure to post some images.

Thanks for your photos and story.