As I type this entry, this is what the snow cloud RADAR looks like from KSTP. Non Birding Bill and I live in Minneapolis. The surrounding clouds kind of look like Oogie Boogie Man from The Nightmare Before Christmas about to nom us up. We may also be feeling the benefits of the bubble effect, sometimes big storms pass around the Twin Cities rather than right through. I am suspicious of the hype with this storm. Suspicious that we will not get the 24 inches predicted all week. NBB says I'm crazy to doubt this, but I'll believe Snomaggedon when I see it.
I thought I'd go out and do some birding before the pending Snowpacolypse today. I wanted to see if I could find a snowy owl at the Minneapolis St Paul Airport but did not--got totally skunked. All I found were eagles and a few snow buntings. I ran into my buddy Linda and her husband and she told me about an eastern screech-owl that was visible from one of the trails at Minnehaha Park.
When I arrived at the park, I could see the true spirit of the Minnesota. There was an artist out with his easel set up and all his layers appropriately applied so he could do a landscape in oils of the frozen creek. It was twenty-nine degrees, so with some well placed SmartWool socks, he could be quite comfortable while he painted the landscape with the snow that we have already accumulated this month. I searched the surrounding tree based on Linda's instructions. I scanned for every potential cavity then was surprised when I found the owl roosting in a cavity up above the artist! The artist's back was to the owl, he had no idea of the tiny silent sentry keeping watch while he worked his oils.
I got a few photos of the gray phase eastern screech-owl (I even took a photo with by hand holding my Blackberry to my scope and sent it to Twitter), then went over to the artist to point out the owl. I think he was expecting something larger, but still found it cool. I know screeches are urban owls, years ago there was a pair of red phases nesting a few blocks from our apartment. This bird seemed very used to this spot, I noted the well worn sledding tracks right beneath and around the tree with the owl's roost--this owl is very used to people.
Trees aren't the only place to look for screech-owls. Yesterday, I got a photo in my inbox. Someone had a surprise roosting in the slot for their daily newspaper below the mailbox:
A red phase eastern screech-owl (the same species I saw, but just a different color variation). I did not take this photo. The photographer lives in the Midwest but would prefer that their name not show up on the Internet. Screech owls naturally nest and roost in old woodpecker cavities, kestrel boxes or wood duck boxes. Sometimes, if they can't find a cavity, they make do with an unusual structure. Another reason to put up a wood duck box or let old trees with cavities stay up if they are in a spot that won't risk damage to your home.
Now to watch and see if we get any of the snOMG!