Bonus While Removing Buckthorn

And maybe just a tad of personal vindication.

This afternoon I was doing some half hearted buckthorn removal in Mr. Neil's woods. It needs to be done, but at the same time I was making mental apologies to the woods and wildlife that areas of thick brush would go through a drastic change but would be made up to them in future years with better plants. I fell in love with this woods the first time I walked through it. I remember the spot in the above photo being a particularly perfect place to find a saw-whet owl. Every single time I pass it, I comb the branches with my eyes for small owls but have never seen one there. I've even been taunted by a saw-whet owl feather a wren used in lining a nearby nest box.

Today, I found tiny owl poop beneath one of the trees. I started scanning the trunk but didn't have my hopes too high. After all, I have found owl poop before and no owl. I stood right on top of the poop and looked straight up. The branches revealed nothing. I took a step back and to the right. An oval shape and then vertical lines came into view--saw-whet owl! Finally, a saw-wet! I dashed back up the trail to gather my digiscoping equipment to get a photo of this tiny owl:

It was not the best light and the wee owly was not in the least bit threatened by me and continued its snooze. I left the scope on him and called Lorraine to see if she was working at the house. She was and I insisted that she join me on the trail to see an owl. How could she refuse? We both marveled at the owl and then it did the craziest thing! It woke up, faced away from us and started bobbing its head. We changed our position to get a better look. Without the scope, it looked as though it was about to cough up a pellet. But when I looked in the scope it was opening its mouth and moving as though it were making sounds? What was it doing?? Lorraine and I strained to hear and finally we made out very high pitched, almost inaudible squeaks and clicks--almost bat like. I tried to get a video, but there was no way to get the sound on that microphone. Here you can watch it move:

You know, I've worked with an education saw-whet owl at TRC and have never heard that sound or have seen or heard it in the wild. I couldn't find anything like it on BNA. I did find something sort of like it on Cornell's Owl CD (a must have for any person remotely into owls) and there are a couple of tracks on there listed as "unknown winter vocalization". If there are any owl experts out there who would care to share their knowledge of saw-whet owl vocalizations, I would love to hear it.

We waited for Mr. Neil to finish some writing and insisted that he and Cabal come join us to watch the owl before it got to dark. The owl didn't vocalize but took a direct interest in the large white dog. It's now night, and I hope the saw-whet is finding plenty of tasty mice and voles around the feeding area. I put out some extra bird seed on the ground to encourage small mammals for it.

I guess you never know what you'll find when removing buckthorn.