There was a Barred Owl in The Ramble of Central Park this morning. When I arrived in the park this afternoon, after hearing Blue Jay cries, I found an owl. I though it was the Barred Owl at first, but then it looked like a Great Horned Owl, which I tweeted out using the #birdcp hashtag. It was tucked in most of time, far away and obscured by leaves with an oval face and plump body. But perched birds can be deceiving. Lots of folks saw it, but after two hours Ryan Zucker came by and said, "I think that's a Long-eared Owl". When I got home, I discovered one of the youngest birders in the park got it right. It was a Long-eared Owl. I've never seen one so early and never in a deciduous tree in Central Park. Thanks for the correction Ryan.
Making the wrong I.D. is a big faux pas in birding, so I've been trying to figure out how I got it wrong. I think I was biased by my previous Long-eared sightings, which where in snowy conditions, mid-winter. Plus the bird was obscured and very, very high in the tree. I looked up the frequency map on eBirds for New York County and Long-eared Owls, and while it showed mostly winter sightings, there are plenty of fall and spring sightings. I'll need to give up my winter bias, and concentrate on chest stripping and color going forward!