Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Avian Adventures

I can always tell when a great horned owl is around because the eastern screech owl that hangs out near my cabin is silent. Great horned owls will prey on the little screech owls, and they aren’t the only ones. Barred owls, long-eared owls and short-eared owls would all take a screech owl if they can find them. And that doesn’t count the mammals, such as mink, weasel, the ever-present raccoons and skunks, not to mention other large birds, such as crows. Screech owls have a tough go at keeping away from predators. So many things would be happy to eat them.
So this morning the screech owl was silent, and the big great horned owl hooted from higher up on the mountain, not as close to the cabin as the screech owl, but close enough that the smaller owl wasn’t about to draw attention to itself. Barred owls are also common in this area, just not around my corner of Roundtop Mtn. I have occasionally heard one down in a swampy area at the bottom of the mountain, but not for a while and never very often.

The presence of the great horned owl wasn’t worrisome enough to silence Doodle, my rooster, this morning, but the big owl never answered back the way the screech owl will. I still let my chickens out of their pen this morning, though the big owl could easily feast on one of them. The chickens love to be out in the woods and if the weather is bad or they feel threatened, they hide under the cabin. So far, that’s worked fine. Doodle finds a low branch and perches on it, with the girls below him pecking on the ground. He’s watching for danger so they can forage, but he’s only about two feet off the ground, so I have to wonder how much he really sees. It looks impressive, though—a big Rhode Island Red rooster alert for danger while the girls calmly feed and look for worms. Doodle is all about looking impressive.


Scott said...

Beautiful late summer-early autumn landscape, Carolyn.

I've got Great Horned and Screech Owls around the house, too (no Barreds), and they act behave just like yours. I used to have a pair of Great Horned Owls that nested dependably right behind the house, but they've forsaken me in the last few years and now it's just the occasional Great Horned that I hear, usually off in the distance. I DID have a nesting pair in my Breeding Bird Census area this spring; I never saw them, but I frequently heard the strange, unmistakable calls of the owlets.

Another bird note: we've got Soras in our native grasslands. Our premier birder told me about them, though I didn't see them. Then, just yesterday, a birder stopped at the office bearing a corpse he found laying in one of the grassland trails--a Sora, in excellent condition! I've never observed a live Sora; can I add this dead bird to my life list?

Cathy said...

Oh I love your photo. I'm surprise that owl would eat another owl. You really don't hear hawks eating other hawks. Unless I'm wrong.

Carolyn H said...

Scott: it's very cool that you have sora on the grasslands, though it's a shame one was found dead. You have to wonder whatever happened to it. Technically, if you've heard the bird (and never seen it) you may count it. But I'm pretty sure they don't let you count dead birds--otherwise lots of people who've seen the skins could still count passenger pigeons!

Carolyn H said...

Cathy: for the most part hawks don't eat other hawks, but if they found one that was in trouble, it wouldn't surprise me if a larger hawk tried to eat a smaller one. They do fight a lot, though. Kestrels chasing merlins, sharpies dive-bombing eagles. That's one of the fun things at a hawkwatch when you get to see the aerial dogfights!

Adele said...

I want to thank you for the beautiful picture in this post. I can almost walk down the trail and get lost in the distant woods. Sometimes our minds need a very quiet place to go, and you have given me a special one in the middle of a busy day.

My home overlooks Lake Superior, from Northern Minnesota, with Wisconsin in the distance. Also lovely.

Carolyn H said...

Adele, Oh, I love Lake Superior. I hiked Pictured Rocks many years ago.I'd love to do that hike again!