Enjoying the warm up in temperature, I used today to play with some of my new tech gadgets. The more I'm getting used to my Remembird, the more I am loving it. It's a digital recorder that attaches to your binoculars and you can use it to make field notes without moving your binoculars from your face. You can either listen to your notes with the provided ear piece or load them onto your computer. So, as you're watching the bird in question you can whisper all the details that you are noticing. Remembird also has a setting for recording bird calls, and I'm anxious to give that a test run when warblers come back. Right now, it's nice now to have the time to get used to pressing the right buttons.
With the sub zero temperatures, the creek at Mr. Neil's place is completely frozen. We decided to cross it explore the area on the other side. I really wanted to check it out, that's where I've heard great horned owls hooting and this morning, crows were mobbing something in the pines.
There were all kinds of tracks along the frozen creek. Above are some turkey tracks, and you can see where the bird slipped a bit on the ice, complete with a wing print. Animals like to use this to move around--it's easier than going over the deep snow. When we got across the creek and up the hill with the pines, I started exploring. A great horned owl was flying around the area. It didn't appear to be flushed by me. I was a distance away and had already passed it and wouldn't have known it was there if it hadn't flown. It went from tree to tree, almost as if it were looking for something. Eventually, it paused on top of some trees and then hopped quite awkwardly into the top of one of the pines.
It was tucked in here and I could barely make out the owl's shape from where I was standing. A flock of crows flew over and one crow dropped to mob the great horned. The rest of the flock was about 10 yards behind me. Since the flock was concentrated there, I wondered if the crows had found the nest? I made an arrow in the snow to remind myself where to stand if I came back to look for this owl and when towards the louder mobbing.
I came around to the rest of the crows and couldn't find anything that looked like a nest. The other crow off by the great horned, increased the urgency in its calls and the rest of the flock joined it. I continued my search and then found the second owl, but was incredibly surprised. It wasn't a great horned owl:
It was a barred owl! I have never seen a wild barred owl so close to a wild great horned owl before. Usually the barred owls at Neil's are very people wary. Once you make eye contact with them, they bolt. Most of the time I unknowningly flush them even from a good distance. This bird stayed put. I think this bird realized that this was great horned owl territory and was laying low to avoid being caught in the territory of "the tiger of the woods." I now wonder if the reason the great horned owl was flying the territory when I arrived knew this owl was here and was on patrol for it.
Eventually, I relocated the great horned owl. The bird waited for th crows to leave, walked out towards the edge of the branch, searched around the area and then few in the direction of the barred owl. I couldn't find it and didn't stick around too much longer after that. I figured those two had enough to sort out without having a human underfoot.