Winter-time Owls at White Memorial

Photo By Darlene Knox
Owls are never easy to find, and are much more often heard than seen. However, during the winter, when they are stressed by hunger and by snow cover hiding their small mammal prey, they are more likely to be seen hunting during the daytime. The Barred Owl in the photo above was seen along the Windmill Hill Trail in a semi-open woodland situation where it had a good view of the trail and surrounding area. Any small mammal venturing out into the open here would surely be caught and eaten by this owl. Barred Owls aren't too vocal at this time of year. They become more territorial later in February. They are especially prone to hooting in March and April. There are several pairs of these birds found on White Memorial property, but the ones at Windmill Hill seem to be the least shy around people. Great Horned Owls are very vocal now as they firm-up their territorial boundaries. They will probably choose an old crow or hawk nest or hollow of a dead tree as a nest site next month, and mate and lay eggs some time in March. Anyone wishing to hear them hooting, and maybe even see one, should park in front of the Museum around 5 p.m. when it is clear and calm. A pair of GHO's has called the White Pine woods north of the Museum their territory for many years. Another pair can regularly be found along the western side of Catlin Woods. We know of 3 territorial Eastern Screech-Owls and a couple of Northern Saw-whet Owls on the Property, but we don't disclose their exact whereabouts because they are much more easily disturbed by people. The Screech-Owls are year-round residents, but the Saw-whets are only here for the winter. They most likely came from Canada or northern New England. It has been at least 15 years since a Long-eared Owl has been detected on the Property. They have become very rare. If you do come out to White Memorial to listen and look for owls, please do not use tape playback to elicit responses from them. It can disturb them to the point where they will abandon their territory; or even attack the person holding the tape player. We probably will offer an "owl prowl" for the public sometime this spring, so keep watch for an announcement in our next newsletter.

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