Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Baby Owls and Nesting Flycatchers

One of the most amazing things about living here is the extensive woods that take over any place that isn't regularly cleared.  We live on five acres plus and manage to hack back and maintain about one acre from returning to a primeval state.  Yesterday I heard a very raptorish weird bird call,  an ascending tseeep but big and raspy.  I saw an owl fly but I couldn't place it as being the cause.  Last night Steve heard it coming through an open skylight and thought that our resident bats had become extremely distressed and vocal for a change. We have allowed a colony of about forty bats to live above our SIP panels in the ventilation at the peak of our roof.  Perhaps not a good idea, but we like giving shelter.

Steve went outside and traced it to the trees closest to the house.  Two trees in fact.  We have a great big spotlight and we shone it on what were clearly two owls whistling in turn.  I thought they were barred owls as we have been blessed with two of them around here since the first year we moved in.  We have video of them hanging out in a willow by our pond.

This photo of a mature barred owl was taken in our now fallen willow near our pond the first year we lived here. The second photo is the excited me videotaping the birds, and a local Auduboner photographing one of the earliest records of the barred owl within Port Townsend city limits, 2005.

Gotta love the internet, looking up barred owl vocalizations we learned these sounds are the sounds of young juvenile owls begging.  Today I heard them around 3PM and went out and saw a huge adult owl (male I think) in a tree fifty feet from the house.  He just stared at me.  Further, near the labyrinth, I could hear the baby owls begging.  I walked down the hill and found one of them in clear view.  He or she does not have the crisp white barring on brown feathers that the adult has.  This one's head was gray and slightly fuzzed all around the top and its eyes were black holes, as if eyeless, as it stared at me. Amazing wildlife viewing.

The other night I grabbed a sleeping bag and slept on a bunk on the far side of the chicken house.  When I woke up I immediately regretted not having brought binoculars with me.  Without them, my wheezy eyes and bad vision was not going to let me discern a single bird flitting in my view.  And yet I noticed these two birds kept coming closer and closer to me, making a tsureep question call repeatedly.  They got so close I could tell they were Pacific-slope flycatchers, and then as my eyes began to function I realized right above my feet on a ledge was a mossy nest.  I can only imagine my arrival in the dark, and presence in the morning within three feet of them had caused much stress.

This is a photo of the young owl today.  And below it the pacific-slope flycatcher nest.  Be sure to click on the photos to enlarge them, you can really see the mother flycatcher well.

Blessed with living in a nursery.  Mostly secret.