Saturday, February 10, 2007

Owls in Massachusetts

Last weekend was an "owl festival" at my local Audubon nature preserve. First was a great presentation on snowy owls at Logan Airport (not given there, about owls who hang out there) by Norm Smith of the Blue Hills Audubon nature preserve. Yes, there are snowy owls all over Logan's landing strips. No, this is not good for the airplanes. Yes, they are hard to spot if you're flying out from there, as I discovered a day later-- white could mean snow, trash, or owl.

Norm has some great pictures of them, and points out how little we understand them -- they don't seem to be migratory in the usual sense, and might even be circumpolar. They are able to filter out the sounds of the jets to tune in on squeaking rats. They all look a bit different, and have different personalities, too.

Some articles and links worth looking at on this work:

This is a map of where some of the owls he attached transmitters to ended up in Canada -- mostly up towards Hudson Bay. Some have been tracked to Siberia, though. (Hey, I've been there. I saw no owls, however.)

The day after Norm's terrific talk and slides, a guy brought in some birds living in captivity because they've been hurt or grown up with people and now identify too much with people to hunt properly. These were beautiful birds. Below you'll see this fellow with a screech owl, incredibly cute, and a wonderful great horned owl. None of my pictures turned out very well due to the interior lighting, but you get the idea.

After the demo of the birds, we went on an "owl prowl" walk in what was probably 14F degrees at best. In the gathering dark, I add, because at the point where I'd had enough of the cold, I didn't think I could see my way back to the lodge. We crunched all over the grounds of Broadmoor making dumb owl calls, and hearing not a peep back except for the bored kids shifting around while we listened and whining a little and sometimes pretending to be owls themselves which didn't really help us. It was so cold even the CD player with some real owls on it wouldn't perform properly. An owl bust, all around. Now that I know what screech owls and saw whets sound like, I can confirm I have never heard them where I live beside the reservoir. Too bad! They are really cute.


Unknown said...

This is really a great presentation on snowy owls at Logan Airport by Norm Smith. The study of these snowy owls are interesting, which has great features.

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althea said...

If you have heard screech owls near your backyard, you might want to put up a screech owl box of your own.It might take a year or two, but we have found it very rewarding, so you might as well get started now.
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