Short-eared Owl - West Meadows, Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, Northampton, Hampshire Co., MA. December 6th, 2015.
The events of the day took the family south towards Easthampton in the afternoon. At the back of my mind I couldn't help but think about the one or two Short-eared Owls that have been consistently reported from Arcadia Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuary over the last month or so. So with our business out of the way, the whole family headed towards the West Meadows of the sanctuary. Immediately two juvenile Northern Harriers appeared and kept us entertained until dusk started creeping in. All of a sudden, three birds were sparring over the meadows and one of them was a Short-eared Owl. Despite the fading light, the owl put on a prolonged show, quartering over the the managed fields close enough for an eight-year old to have good naked-eye views! The owl settled out of view in the meadow but remarkably, just I was about to climb into the car to leave, two owls appeared together on the opposite side of the road and seemed to be engaged in a dispute. It was all over in seconds and whilst one was a certain Short-eared Owl, the other which I saw again a few minutes later, could have been a Long-eared Owl or, at the very least, I couldn't rule out Long-eared Owl for the third bird. The habitat looks appropriate for both species so hopefully future visits will reveal more.
It was a classic, damp, chilly winter's evening and a real joy to watch these predators quartering over the meadows. I've seen very few Short-eared Owls in the Pioneer Valley and all of them have been in Hampshire County close to the Connecticut River. Sadly, I've yet to find a similar 'sweet spot' in Franklin County. Many thanks to Larry Therrien for tips on how best to observe the owls at Arcadia.
All images taken at dusk, Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, West Meadows, Northampton, Hampshire Co., MA. December 6th, 2015.