As many of you know, I have come to enjoy watching owls, as much as I enjoy watching hawks.
As I did for the last two years, I’ve kept a blog about my adventures with Eastern Screech-Owls in Central Park this winter and spring. I’ve kept it private until early May, since I didn’t want to disclose a nesting site until after the young owls fledged.
It seems people love owls too much, and they are willing to risk disturbing them by over-birding them, leading large tours to see them, photographing them too closely and using flash cameras at dusk/night.
Our small group of owl watchers carefully studied Eastern Screech-Owls this winter, spring and summer. Between us, we ended up seeing seven Screech-Owls, three pairs and a single owl.
My 2008 owl blog details two pairs, a couple in the middle of the park, which we lost track of after just a few weeks early in the year and a pair that we followed from December until now in the North Woods. This pair ended up with three fledglings and is the same pair described in my 2007 owl blog.
I invite you to follow our progress of discovery from initial courtship and copulation, to nesting and nestlings, the fledge, and the fledglings’ initial months in the park.
If this blog perks your interest in seeing owls in Central Park, take the time to learn the proper etiquette for watching owls. By doing so, you’ll not only get to see an owl, but you will be able to discover a whole world of fascinating behaviors.
The rules we followed might be good for you to follow as well:
- Respect the owls space. Keep your distance. Watch the owls for signs of aggravation. If their ears are up, back off.
- Be quiet. When talking is absolutely necessary, speaking in a low voice is less of a disturbance than whispering.
- Don't play recordings of owls calls. In a small area like Central Park, you don't need to. You just need to patiently study the owls you find.
- Don't use flashlights or flash cameras. Using any light prevents you from seeing in the dark, a must for keeping track of owls after dark! Digital cameras on a tripod do wonderfully in low light without flash. All of the photographs taken on my blog are taken using natural light.
- Never disclose an owl's location on the internet. Unless you're prepared to police the site 24/7, you could be inviting someone who doesn't understand how to observe owls to disturb them. There are inexperienced birders who love owls too much!
(The Eastern Screech-Owls were reintroduced to the park in 1998 and 2001-2002. One of the former park employees who helped develop and implement the project used our enjoyment of these owls as a sign the project was a success.
The project has not created a genetically diverse population of Eastern Screech-Owls in the park. It has stocked the park with owls, like stocking a pond with trout. After ten years, there is no proof of any third generation owls and there have not been any known exchanges of owls with nearby populations to diversify the Central Park population. Unless these two things happen, in my opinion, the project is a failure.)