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D. Bruce Yolton
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Thursday, 1-10-08 - West Side Eastern Screech-Owls

Following up on reports of a newly discovered pair of Eastern Screech-Owls, I rushed out of my office and made it up to them just at fly out.  I couldn't get my camera focused fast enough to get them in their cavities.  They are using two holes in adjacent tree limbs.

Before they flew out, once gave a soft call, and they flew out one after another and quickly copulated. They then stayed in nearby trees preening, copulated a second time and then went off to hunt.

These would be my sixth and seventh Central Park Screech-Owls of the season.

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I didn't see them actually hunt, but heard one of them land in some leaves and reappear.  Then it was a quick trip back to one of their cavities.

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One owl was in the tree

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was joined by a second after this shot was taken, then one left and then...

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...there was an owl with a mouse.  Was it a gift from the male to the female? Was the mouse a fresh kill or one that had been cached?  Who knows, but it was wonderful to see.  This is the first time in three years of owl watching, I've been able to see prey.

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Soon one owl was on a nearby branch...

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...joined by the other...

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...and for about twenty minutes, head rubbing took place.

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After watching them, I left the park joyous that we had at least three pairs of Screech-Owls in the park.

An update for New York City's birdwatchers... 
One of the park's pairs of owls may have laid eggs this last weekend.  This educated guess is based on the pair's recent changes in behavior. If we're correct, this is consistent with past years.  Starting with the fledge date of late February in 2007 or the early March fledge of 2006 and subtracting 28 days from nestling period, and then go back another 26 days for incubation period gets you to early January.  (This is about six weeks too early, but is characteristic of the Central Park Owls.)

While this is just a guess, we all might want to switch gears and assume that there are nesting owls in the park.  This would mean limiting the sizes of groups, not playing recording of calls, limiting the time we spend around the cavities, being discrete about their locations, etc.  The American Birding Association has a great set of guidelines online, which are worth reviewing.

Saturday, 01-12-08 - West Side Eastern Screech-Owls

Saturday, 01-12-08

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Look at his ears get tall as he is bothered by a Red-bellied Woodpecker.

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Good You're Gone!

I then came back for the fly out to see him relaxed.

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He has a colored patch on the back of his neck.

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He called and she popped up.

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They then both flew out and copulated four times before giving us the slip!

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Sunday, 01-13-08 - West Side Eastern Screech-Owls

There was a large crowd tonight.  There was an "Owl Tour" and lots of birders.  They female was very slow to come out and took her time.  She flew out about a half hour later than the male.  They had sex twice and disappeared to the east soon afterwards.

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Before fly out both owls were hiding.  The male looked out briefly before waiting another five minutes to pop-up into the cavity.

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He was jolly and round on a cold evening.  We've figured out who was who when they've copulated so he's certainly the male.

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This is the male waiting for the female to fly out.

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She stayed in the tree for a long while.

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Then she flew out.  There were two quick copulations, a brief pause and then a trip across the West Drive.

Monday, 1-14-08 - West Side Eastern Screech-Owls

I arrived around 5:30 after fly out to find one owl quietly sitting on a branch outside the roost tree.  The owl stayed in the same place for at least thirty minutes.  Was it the female waiting for a snack or the male waiting for the female.  I couldn't tell on a cold, misty night without binoculars.

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Wednesday, 1-16-08 - West Side Eastern Screech-Owls

The male was out standing guard when I arrived on Wednesday evening.

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After sunset, the female appeared.

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Soon they both flew off heading south, then north and then settling down on one branch together.

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Soon head rubbing behavior started.

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Then one of them flew away.

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Then I lost track of both of them.  I walked around for about fifteen minutes without success.

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Then I found the female sitting in her cavity.  She stayed there.

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After a few minutes, I heard the male call.

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He quickly flew in, handed off a small bird and quickly flew off.

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She took the bird inside the cavity and...

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...disappeared for the evening.

Wednesday, 1-23-08 - West Side Eastern Screech-Owls

Tonight, we only got to see the male owl.  He flew out, landed on a nearby branch, preened and then went north.  We looked for the female, but she did not come out of her cavity.

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