Birderblog wore me out yesterday!
Side Note: Right after I typed the above sentence, I looked up out the window and noticed a squirrel crawling down a tree. It paused and was hanging upside down on the tree. Then, while holding it's back claws to the tree, stretched its body forward using the front paws to inch a little further down. That looks so cool! I want to do a stretch, hanging upside down on the side of a tree trunk!
Okay, back to the entry. We went to Carlos Avery yesterday to look for the short-eared owls. Alas, a fairly strong wind picked up by the end of the day and the owls seemed to hunker down. However, we did get some great bonuses.
I had a first: I found a saw-whet owl on my own without it having been reported in the area on the listservs before hand. My owl senses were tingling and at first Laura and I searched rows of an old tree nursery looking for saw-whets. It's actually the spot where The Raptor Center released some great gray owls during the infamous owl irruption of 2004 - 2005 (note photo above--that's where we were yesterday).We found lots of "owl sign"--pellets and poop, but no owl. It was nerve racking because we found poop so fresh it was still glistening, but no owl.
Laura was excited to try out a new digiscoping setup so we made our way to the headquarters to take photos of some bird feeders at a house on the WMA. We weren't sure if this was part of the WMA or a private residence. As we were looking, a friendly woman came out and greeted us--I recognized her right away: Jan Welsh, who lives there with her family. (Jan didn't recognize me right away, but I had my hair in pig tails--result of a failed olive oil experiment. I should have known better. My hair retains water worse than I do once a month. I don't know why it didn't occur to me that my hair would do the same with olive oil).
Jan had some great feeders and a bird house trail that she uses for school groups and cub scouts for educational programs. I was admiring her bittersweet that she had on one of her fences. I love watching birds sitting in bittersweet--the colors are so complimentary.
Jan has an amazing coop with a few ducks and dozens of chickens. While Jan was showing me her chickens and Laura was digiscoping I suddenly heard angry chickadees and nuthatches. I rudely interrupted our conversation and said, "Sorry, Jan, angry chickadees. Gotta go!"
Behind the coop is a small pond surrounded by pines and oak. I followed the loud angry calls--the red-breasted nuthatch almost sounded like a tiny "neck massager". I made my way to the pine and all the small birds were high up in a conifer (above). Their calls were so agitated and insistent sounding, I almost thought they were communicating to me, "It's right here, stupid!! See?!"
I finally found a small owl shape and the owl turned around and sure enough, a saw-whet! My elation was tempered with disappointment. I had to go get Laura and Jan but this bird was so high and so tucked, it would be difficult at best to A. re find it and B. take a photo.
I got Laura and by the time we got back to the tree the mobbing flock was gone--there goes the "X marks the spot". I knew the tree it was in and after a few minutes I was able to find the silhouette but it was in no position for me to describe to Laura in an easy way. She let me use her scope to find it and after several minutes we got the bird in view in an almost vertical scope.
It was getting dark and there were so many branches and pine needles in front of it, it was next to impossible to digiscope. Laura's photo is a little better.
Jan mentioned that she suspects saw-whets might be using one of her wood duck boxes to nest in and also has been hearing great-horned and barred owls regularly in the last couple of weeks.
We continued to search the refuge, and though we got nooged on the short-ears we did see lots of rough-legged hawks and a bonus of a dark morph rough-leg--I love dark morph raptors. We also found a shrike, male harriers, bald eagles and lots and lots of voles.
It was a fun day and also fit in with my resolution to spend more time with friends.