Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

March 30, 2012

Masters of Camouflage!

I think of all the Owls I have seen in my journeys the last couple years; I would have to say my favorite Owl to see, hear and yes, take a few photos of is the Eastern Screech Owl.

A tiny Owl compared to the likes of the many Snowy Owls I encountered this past winter.  Size is comparable to the American Robin.

I love the fact of how well they blend in with their surroundings.  Sure most Owls do but I swear the ESO can pick a tree that color matches it's own body.

Take this "red morph" Screech Owl.  Could it pick any better of a spot to hang out? 

How about this "grey morph"? If his eyes were closed, he'd surely disappear into the bark of the tree. But he is one of only a couple I have ever heard trill. And is the only one I have watched trill.

Seeing such a bird is amazing! And I love the one of a kind natural settings Mother Nature has to offer us in our travels. No two trees are truly alike. And with my more than respectable distance from the Owl, you see him above unstressed and undisturbed. He is well aware of my presence but continues his eerie song.

Take a look at this Screech Owl. I'd swear that cavity was made just for this Owl. A few of the other local birds (American Robins, Black-capped Chickadees) were on high alert and stopped me in my tracks to scope my surroundings and eventually spotted this guy.

And lastly, a photo I have shown a number of my friends. And it took some a bit of time to realize that they were looking at more than just a tree in the shot.

Yes, Eastern Screech Owls are the "Masters of Camouflage"!

I don't have a "regular", as in known resident Screech Owl in my area. I've seen them, some even more than once, but haven't actively pursued any to the point of discovering a nest. I pass some of these cavities again throughout the year and wonder if he/she is in there sleeping away?

Here are some cool facts about Eastern Screech Owls (borrowed from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology page). I've linked it as you can see. And if you have a moment, check out the sound bit on this Owl.

Like most raptors, male Eastern Screech-Owls are smaller than females, and are more agile fliers and hunters. The female doesn’t hunt while on the nest; she and the chicks depend on food brought them by the male. Though the male is smaller, his voice is deeper than the female’s.

Smaller birds can help you find screech-owls during the day. Listen for a commotion of Blue Jays, chickadees, and titmice—they may be mobbing a screech-owl (or other raptor), swooping around it with noisy calls. This can be enough of a nuisance to make the owl move on, and it alerts other birds to the predator’s presence and teaches younger members of the flock about the danger.

Screech-owls regurgitate the bones, fur, and feathers of their prey in an oval pellet, usually once or twice a day. The ground beneath habitual owl roosts can be littered with pellets, and you can learn a lot from them about the owl’s diet. However, data from pellets may underestimate the number of soft-bodied animals, like worms and insects, the owl has eaten.

Nestling Screech-owls fight fiercely among themselves for food, and sometimes even kill and eat their smallest sibling.

Eastern Screech-Owls of the suburbs may fledge more young than their rural counterparts, probably because their predators are scarcer in the suburbs.

Red and gray individuals occur across the range of the Eastern Screech-Owl, with about one-third of all individuals being red. Rufous owls are more common in the East, with fewer than 15% red at the western edge of the range. No red owls are known from southern Texas, although they occur further north in Texas and further south in Mexico. Intermediate brownish individuals also occur in most populations.

Eastern Screech-Owl pairs usually are monogamous and remain together for life. Some males, however, will mate with two different females. The second female may evict the first female, lay her own eggs in the nest, and incubate both clutches.

The Eastern Screech-Owl is known to eat a variety of songbirds, including the European Starling. Despite this fact, the starling regularly displaces the owl from nesting sites and takes over the hole to raise its own brood.

March 14, 2012

My first nature video...

I decided to try something new the other day, and instead of taking photos, I tried to make a video. Here it is... I do need to work on my narration skills, the whole idea of talking to myself is odd, even if it's something I am very passionate about.

I tried to load my video through the computer but I keep getting an error message.  Not sure what is up with that.  So here is a link to it. 

March 5, 2012

Snowy Owl 8, 9, 11, 12 and 13!

I asked myself the other day, and some others, where my number of Snowy Owls to be seen this winter would end at. I had no answer, and friends had guessed between 15 and 20. As you can see from the title, I did get close to 15... and hey, it's not quite over yet so we shall see. But 13 different Snowy Owls this winter is astounding to me.

Re-tracing my path a few days after the last adventure. I quickly found what I call numbers 8 and 9, as both of these Snowy Owls were in the same general area as just days earlier. The adult male (#2) was in the vicinity as well. And then as I turned a corner, I noticed yet another Snowy Owl in this 2 km radius, making for 4 Owls (the most I have ever seen in this stretch) and this Owl became #11 to me.

Snowy #8 roosting in the morning on a trailer out in a field.

Snowy #9 was REALLY far out in a farmer's field.

And here be Snowy #11. Female or young male?

Please note, I did stay inside my truck as I took these shots. All the Owls were out on farm fields so roadside is the best I could get with any of them.

Something caught it's attention, or it grew tired of my attention upon it and away it went deeper into the field.

And one day later, a report came in of two Snowy Owls in another area where I had seen only one previously. I took a chance the following day, right before work. It was quite a trip across the QEW and I was hoping to get 30 minutes in the area before I had to turn around and head back the other way to work. Traffic was heavy. And as I exited the QEW, I looked at the clock. If the last stretch of road was good, and the Owls could be found quickly, I had maybe 15 minutes now. A part of me wanted to turn around and head back to Mississauga. But another part, a louder part within said "You've come this far, continue!" And of course my rubber arm was twisted with ease. And I still am very happy to this day that I did.

I present to you, Snowy Owl #12! A real treat with this one because she was putting on quite a show for us in the marina, having caught herself a Ring-billed Gull for a meal. I still only had 15 minutes with her but I was A-OK with this. She, much like all the others, was some distance off; but the feasting show through my binoculars and the lens was just awesome! (I did see the other Snowy Owl, just a bit of it, at the far end of the marina, along the break wall).

She has the Gull in her talons. And she hopped with it across the dock until she got to a more comfortable spot. Four hops with the carcass... thump, thump, thump, thump.

Back to her meal.

And a short break just before I left for work.

I was buzzing all afternoon at work! 12 Snowy Owls now! And the "meal ordeal" played over and over in my head.

And then, that night, as I got on the 401 to head home after work... what do I see but yet another Snowy Owl! It was sitting on a lamp post at Hwy 401 and Hwy 410. There was nothing I could do other than slow down a little (making sure no traffic behind me), look up at it as long as I could until I passed it, and continue home. I was all smiles as the rush of the Snowy Owl sightings came back to me.

To some it appears I am bragging. But I am not really. It became my own personal bit to keep track of them for myself. Many miles have been driven, much gas has been burned, and a lot of time has been spent over the past 3 months. I think I am allowed to keep track and share it for those who are interested.

We are now into our first full week of March. I don't expect to see anymore. But you never know...