Thursday March 25 2010
Today I was able to ditch the dogs, and I snuck up Bates Creek from the house.
I knew where I should find a long-eared owl or two (last May, I found several, including a baby), so I slowly and as quietly as possible approached the spot in the creek where the brush is thickest and where I know they hang out.
I looked, and looked, stopped and studied the brush and tree branches every few yards, but didn't see one. You won't see a long-eared owl unless you flush one, or unless you are really, really good. They are so camouflaged and look so like the tree or brush they are sitting in, and since they won't move or blink, your eyes simply won't comprehend one.
I walked very slowly upstream along the bank - no owls. I was sure there had to be owls in here. I slowly walked back downstream along the bank, and still saw nothing. Just as I was about to give up, I noticed a pile of whitewash under some brush. Ah ha - an owl had obviously been sitting there for a time. I kept looking at the brush - and realized I'd been staring at the long-eared owl the whole time! Quite unbelievable. (Looks obvious in the photo, but it wasn't!)
He didn't move, didn't blink, just stared at me. I was quite sure there had to be more owls around there, and very possibly one on a nest, but I could not see an obvious nest (there was a possibility, but I was pretty sure nothing was on it) and didn't want to disturb him or them any more.
I continued on upstream, and not 30 yards further I spotted a small nest in the crook of a snag and - also camouflaged so well I would not have made it out if the wind hadn't been blowing its ears - sitting on it, a great horned owl!
The other thing that gave it away was the partner great horned owl that flushed out of the tree next to it. He flew upstream and immediately came right back with two Ravens chasing it! One Raven landed close and was knocking (vocally) at the owl; the owl was snapping his beak at the Raven, which they do when they are threatened.
I left them all alone to have their row, and continued upstream another quarter mile to two more empty nests. Was one of these a Raven nest? I'd seen a Raven flying in this direction last week with sticks in its feet.
Under one of the nests I found some fairly fresh whitewash and a broken pellet. I think the nest was unoccupied at the moment. Maybe Ravens nest a bit later in the spring, or, maybe this Raven pair (or another) are just toying with nest-building but decided to stay childless another year.
Getting tired of the bird posts yet? Hope not, because while I'm done with Bates Creek, I'm not done with the area yet!