Posts tagged owls

Twitcher’s Delight

Twitcher – A birder, or bird-watcher, who is willing to go to great lengths to see any bird species he hasn’t previously recorded, even traveling extensive distances at great expense to see a new lifer.

Living here, in the Queendom, has many perks that we never anticipated. One of those perks is the incredible variety of bird species who stop in. We have the typical Pacific Northwest birds – like the Junco, Chickadee, Nuthatch and Red Finch. We also have many ducks who frequent our pond – Mallards, Buffleheads and Mergansers. Our bird of prey varietals are also plentiful – Bald Eagle, Red Tail Hawk and Turkey Vulture.

But occasionally, we are treated to something unusual; something that stumps us for a while. It is a treat to watch, research and eventually figure out who the latest visitor is. This month, a Great Grey Owl has decided to call our Queendom ‘home’.

IMG_3293

In certain light, her feathers look similar to a Barred Owl.

She is magnificent to watch. Although her slate blue plumage is stunning, she is a perfect chameleon, invisible among the mixed forest unless she turns her head.

She is perfectly camoflaged against this hemlock. Invisible!

She is perfectly camouflaged against this cedar bark. Invisible!

She appears small, for an owl, until she drops from her branch and spreads her 5+foot wing span. Her tail is long and her mustaches are white.

Her wing span is a window to her true size.

Her wing span is a window to her true size.

But the true treat of having been graced with her visit is that she is an uncommon sighting on Vancouver Island. Birders, or Twitchers as they like to be called, have been known to travel inland, over the Coastal Mountain range and North, towards 100 Mile House, (a 7 to 9 hour trip) in order to see this bird. From what we have read, a Vancouver Island sighting is exceedingly rare. Yet she has been hanging out at the Queendom for over a month now. Our chicken flock can spot her long before we can and they live in crazed anxiety much of the time. Since they are free-ranging chickens, she sees them but seems uninterested in them. Instead, she is feasting on smaller fare – mice or voles who live out in our wild area.

A look of true concentration

A look of true concentration before the kill.

My biggest concern is that our precious visitor will be discovered by some twitchers and our Queendom will become a twitching ground.

Only she knows how long she will stay with us. I hope she is enjoying her escape from routine as much as we are.

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Things That Go SCREECH In The Night

At 2 am, I was jolted out of sleep by a noise.  As I tried to wake up and focus, I noticed that FM had also woken up and was starting to get up.  Play both of these audio clips at the same time to hear what we heard.

[audio http://www.learner.org/jnorth/sounds/Owl_Barred_Baby.mp3] [audio http://www.learner.org/jnorth/sounds/Owl_Barred_Monkey.mp3]

My initial thought was that there a coyote howling, but soon enough we realized that the sound was coming from the roof, right above our bedroom.  FM thought that it was a peacock – since he had seen one on his bike commute earlier in the week.  As we cleared the fog of sleep away, our guesses became less crazy.

The sound was irregular, with a minute or so passing between calls.  We went out onto the small balcony and tried to crane our necks to see what was perched above us.  Our movement disturbed it and then we saw two shapes fly over to the trees on our pond island.   At that point we could see that there were two owls watching us.  They continued calling but we were unable to identify them with the distance and the dark.  Neither of us had ever heard the sounds before.

FM took this photo a few months after I wrote this post. The owl flew in and surveyed the pond in full daylight in October. Fabulous!

The next morning, I did a little research to try to figure out which owl it could have been.  The Owl Pages is a great website, complete with multiple sound bites of each species.  The clip at the top is exactly what we heard – an adult and a juvenile barred owl, calling together.  In the dark and being sleepy, I thought that the sound was one animal.

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