: bruce@yolton.com
Copyright 2005-2010
D. Bruce Yolton
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Black Locust - January 26, 2010

Tonight, I played a hunch that the female had moved to a Black Locust tree that had been used a few years ago by the owl pair in 2007 after they moved out of the Willow.

I must have learned how to think like an owl, because she appeared right at dusk.  I was happy for her, since I suspect she got some rest.  The cavities she been using around Glen Span Arch, require her to be alert during the day.

After her fly out, she went to a nearby tree, then to a tree on the shore of The Pool.  Quickly she went across the Pool, to the north shore langing on a Sweet Gum tree, and then to a tree across the foot path where she preened.  Then she went to the down near the ground and I lost her.  She may have been hunting or making her way up the Great Hill.

She made no calls while I was there.  I lost her after about an hour.

I certainly hope that the owl tour scheduled by the parks department or any Birding Bob tours, don't use owl vocalizations over the next few weeks.  The female is finally starting to settle down and get used to being a widow again.

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Misty Night - January 25, 2010

I went up to the North Woods to see how things were going for our single girl.  She was in a high hollow stump that she had used a few months ago.  It had been sunny out, but started to rain.  She moved to a nearby branch.

Maybe because of the rain she seemed to be in no hurry.  I was by myself, without my usual camera gear or binoculars, but managed to quietly keep up with her for over two hours.

At first she stayed near the cavity and took her time preening.  Then she made a few trills.

She surveyed the area east of the pool, sometimes just seeing the lay of the land, and other times hunting.  She went to the ground a few times, and one occasion hopped around a bit, as though she was trying to catch a rodent but was missing it.

Eventually, I lost her as she went of the stream that feeds The Pool.

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Flying Solo - January 24, 2010

On a wet afternoon and early evening, we found the female at Glen Span Arch.  At fly out, she went to a nearby branch and then went from tree to tree in the area east of the West Drive from 104th to 102nd. 

She didn't make a sound.  It might have been the damp weather, but it seemed as though she knew she was alone.

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Cruel Mistress - January 23, 2010

Nature can throw you a left hook sometimes.  Today, it felt like the left hook was followed up by a knock out punch.

The female was found sunning back at Glen Span Arch.  Her old cavity, the one we suspected had become a nest, was found to have a squirrel in it.  The squirrels didn't leave her alone at the bridge either.  A squirrel came into the tree and forced her out on an open branch for about half an hour.

The knock out punch was delivered after dusk however.  The male continued to be missing, even after the female called and called (using a trill rather than her normal whinny), before giving up and going hunting.  While it's possible he's just taking a break, given how close this pair has been, I suspect he's dead. 

One of the mysteries is, did he get injured defending the Bridle Path cavity or did he get injured and the female couldn't defend the cavity on her own?

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Despite trying, I can't find a band on the female.  Did she loose it?  Is she a second generation bird?  Did she arrive from outside the park on her own?

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What's Up? - January 22, 2010

After what looked like two weeks of nesting behavior, tonight we had quite a shock. 

Arriving earlier than normal, we saw the female on a small branch outside the cavity in bright light just after sunset.   The last time this happened, she had lost a cavity to a raccoon by Glen Span Arch.

After a few minutes, she flew into the triangle south of the bypass road, and then went into The Loch.

This is the fourth night we haven't seen or heard the male.  We're trying to come up with a positive explanation, but haven't found one yet.

The movie includes a pellet being coughed up.

Saturday Morning Update:  The female was sunning in her Glen Span Arch cavity. The cavity she abandoned was being mobbed by two Blue Jays.  Their mobbing caused a squirrel to pop out of the cavity.  It would be ironic one of the factors caused Screech Owls to disappear from the park in addition to car traffic, city lights, poisons and pesticides, was an over population of squirrels due to people feeding them. 

The disappearance of the male is now a real mystery.  I saw a squirrel go to bed, way after dark around 7 p.m. earlier this week.  Could something have happened?  We should know in a few days.

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Just Her - January 21, 2010

Tonight, we only saw and heard the female again.  She quickly left her cavity, went into the triangle area and perched in a tree.  She then went down to the ground and we lost her.  I suspect she returned to the cavity, but we didn't hear any calls from her.

The mystery of where the male is continues.

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Where Is He? - January 20, 2010

The last two nights, I've spent a few hours each night at the cavity.  I must have missed the female's break last night, but saw it tonight.  Tonight, she only left the nest for two minutes to defecate.  I did hear her both nights calling softly from the cavity.

No sign of the male.

Various calls by the female from 5:45 P.M. to 7:45 P.M.
(click to play)

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Later Flyout - January 18, 2010

Tonight the fly out was at 6:30.  The fly out time seems to be getting later.  The delay, which seemed at first to be connected to the quieting of the nearby squirrels, may be due to some other factor.

In Gehlbach's The Eastern Screech Owl he observed that initial calls were very late during courting, and became progressively early as incubation and nesting occurred.  It will be interesting to see what the fly out dates are over the next few weeks.

There was debris in the mouth of the cavity tonight.  It was unclear if it was feathers from the owls or prey.

The female stayed out for about ten minutes before returning to the nest.

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Mild Night - January 16, 2010

Tonight, the female came out of the cavity and was greeted by the male at the normal time.  The spent a few mintues together in the triangle above the bypass road. She returned to the nest and he went off into The Loch area.

We went down to The Loch area to look for him, without success, and returned to the cavity.  When we arrived both owls were out in the open, he soon took off and she went back inside. 

We could only guess as to what had happened while we were away.  It was unclear if food had been delivered.

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Dangerous Night - January 15, 2010

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?

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