I took a group of two non-birding friends and my husband out to Cotton to see a few owls. We were in Duluth looking at used book stores and antique stores (looking for old fountain pens). Around 3pm we headed out and after getting some coffee we made it to Sax Zim at about 4:15. It was funny because one friend, Jody, had never seen an owl and within 45 minutes she saw 14. Not only that, she saw three different species: great gray, northern hawk owl and one far off barred owl. Even my non-birding Bill got in on the action, he was taking photos. It was fun to watch my regular non-birding friends point out owls.
One of non-birding Bill's photos of a great gray owl on a sign as we drove by.
Well, the KARE segment went great and lots of people are signing up for our impromptu owl tour through the bird store. It also looks like our owl prowl classes in the Twin Cities through The Raptor Center are filling up quickly too.
So many owls are flooding into the state and now owl stories are popping up. One birder thinks that he may have caught someone illegally killing a great gray up at the bog, but it turns out that the person is legally setting out leg hold traps for fur bearing animals. Great grays that are hungry are flying down for the bait and getting caught in the traps. Because they are legal traps, it's illegal to interfere with them. Most of this is just rumor but it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Another interesting rumor through the rehabber grapevine is that the great gray owl that was seen in the St. Paul area is dead. Someone called and reported that they had an owl carcass (they're not sure but possibly a great gray) from that neighborhood. That bird most likely starved to death since that neighborhood wasn't the most ideal habitat for an owl. The bird also received much more harassment by local corvids than it would up north. Up north crows and jays have learned that the great gray owl's feet are too tiny and the owl to slow to give them any trouble. In the metro area the corvids just see an owl of some sort and mob it constantly. Excessive mobbing by corvids may have been a factor). Again, this is rumor at this point.
Someone who lives up near the bog asked on the birding lists how they can avoiding hitting the great gray owls with their car. Apparently they have hit two already this winter and both times the owl swooped down off the perch at the last minute. I have no idea how to solve that problem. That's one of the reasons why tossing mice to the owls from your car is frowned upon. It gets them used to the road and a little lax about flying in front of or around vehicles. Owls typically drop from a high perch and fly low to the ground and many times when they are hit it's a result of poor timing on their part and not the result of reckless driving.
In other news, we do have nine great gray owls and at least one northern hawk owl recovering in the clinic at The Raptor Center.