Wednesday, January 30, 2019

MA - Barred Owl big day

Barred Owl - Montague, Franklin Co., MA. January 29th, 2019.

Yesterday (Jan 29th) I made a spur of the moment decision to drive the quieter roads of Franklin County in a low-key but focused searched for Barred Owls. Motivation had received a boost the previous day when I unintentionally came across two Barred Owls relatively close to each other around the Montague Sand Plains. Unknown to me at the time, Brian Kane had actually seen four Barred Owls the previous day within a very short period of time just a little further south. Although Barred Owl is perhaps the most frequently encountered of the three regular breeding owl species in Franklin County, the sheer numbers of owls being seen and reported during the daylight hours must surely point to an incursion of birds from further north? In addition, all the birds that I found yesterday were in similar habitat - fields edges and/or woodland fringe over looking tall, rank grasses, and quite often in very open situations. In contrast, I usually find our residents pairs in mature, mixed forest.

The tour went well and did not disappoint. I closed the day with eight Barred Owls seen, six of them photographed. Ironically, Susannah had also seen a Barred Owl in the yard across the street from our house in Northfield that morning but she only told me about it in the evening! 

Although we had an incursion of Barred Owls about three years ago, the most obvious indicator of those birds was the amount or roadkill to be seen especially along Interstate 91. I haven't seen anything quite like the current influx since we started living in Franklin County in fall 2010. The remarkable numbers and plain visibility of the owls is something to behold. On the sobering side, a couple of the birds were ridiculously docile, perhaps starving, and uncomfortably close to roads. 

Barred Owl - Gill, Franklin Co., MA. January 29th, 2019.
This was the only owl from the day outside of Montague town limits.

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