Saturday, February 26, 2011

February 26: Owl in the Sun

Everyone's been seeing owls this winter. My husband and I saw a barred owl on the Christmas Bird Count, and several others were spotted that day. A friend regularly sees a barred owl on Beech Hill in Rockport. A co-worker in Appleton has seen three different owls in the past month. His partner saw at least two barred owls while she was just driving around running errands in Camden the other day. Bird rehab clinics in Maine are reporting record numbers of owls being brought in, mostly year-old barred owls that have been hit by cars. Must have been a bumper crop of owls last year.

After looking carefully during several long drives, I thought my own sightings this season were going to be limited to the one in December. But today my husband and I discovered a barred owl in the most unexpected place. We were leaving the YMCA in Camden after our morning workout when I heard Bohemian waxwings calling. So I stood around in the parking lot for a while (long enough for two different people to drive by and ask me what I was looking at) until I spotted a couple of these beautiful birds in a big spruce tree. I was happy. I'd heard and seen several flocks this winter, but nothing up close. But the morning got even better, because as we were driving out of the parking lot, there was the barred owl, eyes closed, roosting on a branch in the full sun. We paused for a moment to admire it, smiling at each other with shared joy. It's always cool to see an owl. Especially when you least expect to.

Even this owl must
enjoy feeling sunlight's warmth
after so much snow.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

February 6: Red-shouldered Hawk

Back on 16 April 2010 I wrote a post about how I'm often fooled by blue jays mimicking hawks. I later expanded on this topic of bird mimicry for a monthly natural history column that I write for the local paper and my land trust's website. That's why, when I was up on my roof shoveling snow yesterday morning and heard the call of a red-shouldered hawk, I barely looked up. I had heard the local band of blue jays yammering not long before and just assumed it was one of them. After all, the red-shouldered hawk, while increasingly more common in Maine, is still an unusual sight in these parts. Especially in early February. I've certainly never seen one in Camden before, although individual birds have been spotted nearby by me and others in springs and falls past.

So I continued with my labors, heaving pile upon pile of snow off the roof. Until I heard the call again, louder and closer. I couldn't help but look up, if just to see this talented blue jay. Imagine my surprise when I saw an actual red-shouldered hawk fly through my back yard, moving down river. If ever I needed a reminder to be ready for anything as a birder, there it was. You never know when something interesting is going to turn up in your own back yard. (This new species became yard bird #70.)

Wind knows sixty words
for snow. Hawk only knows one,
which he yells loudly.