Tonight, Dr. Robert "Birding Bob" DeCandido, Ph.D. came close to causing real harm to this possibly nesting pair of Eastern Screech-Owls. He brought a tour of owl watchers into The Loch and played Screech-Owl vocalizations for over thirty minutes.
Just by luck, he was far enough away from the cavity not to draw the female off the nest. He did however disturb the male, who has been coming to the nest at dusk, hunts and returns within minutes to feed and copulate with the female, who leaves her cavity for only a few minutes.
Tonight, the male did not arrive at the nest until after Dr. DeCandido had left the area. The male owl was tracking Dr. DeCandido from good distance staying at the height of the tree canopy. Only after he saw Dr. DeCandido leave the area, did he come to the nest over an hour late at 6:20.
It's harder for the male to hunt this late. At dusk, both mice and sparrows are more active. When he arrived the female, joined him almost immediately, expecting a meal. The pair copulated, then while he began to hunt, she called loudly, as to say "I'm hungry". He tried various places, including a wood chip pile but was unsuccessful. He flew south to other hunting grounds.
The female returned to the cavity. She then called softly for food for half an hour. I wanted to wait until he returned to make sure everything was fine, but had to leave to meet a friend for dinner.
I really don't understand why Dr. DeCandido would be still be leading tours this late in the year. He's familiar with this female's history of nesting too early. As a scientist he can clearly do the math and knows not to lead tours after January 1st.
I'm not sure what to do about his tours.
If I do nothing, there's a good chance he won't find the cavity.
If I do something proactive, I'll have to tip my hand that there's a nesting owl pair. This might lead to more intense and direct harassment.
Who thought owl watching would be so difficult?