Monday, June 25, 2012

Short-eared Owls at Dusk

Short-eared Owl ©HvHughes

My first experience with Short-eared Owls years ago was unforgettable.

It was winter and bone-chilling cold.  I drove up to Amherst Island in the St. Lawrence Seaway with friends to see Northern Saw-whets, up-close and personal.  We got great looks at the little owls.

But it was the farm field full of Short-eareds at dusk - doing their wing-clap display and barking like dogs that I'll never forget.  They were so loud I could hear them over the sound of my car engine and the noise of my heater.  I considered myself very lucky - and thought I'd never see anything like it again.

That was before I moved to northwestern Minnesota.

I've lived here a little more than a year - and I have to sat the owling up here is the best I've ever seen.

New Years Short-eared Owl ©HvHughes

In early January, I spotted a Short-eared Owl in a snow storm.  Months later, I happened upon short-ears wing-clapping at 3pm on a cloudy day less than a mile from my house.  But the Short-ears Saturday night had to be my best sighting ever.

The CRP fields were full of these stubby-bodied birds with the huge moth-like flight.  We spotted 2 on the ground by the side of the road.  Then two more nearby on the opposite side of the road and another sitting atop a power pole.  Had to be flight school.  We sat and watched as one, who appeared to be flying well, crash-landed on his noggin.

Then tonight, driving home from the Library in Thief River Falls, I rolled down my car window and slowed to photograph a Loggerhead Shrike hunt from a power line.  First I'd seen since this month - same time as last year.  Then I heard it:  the barking of a Short-eared Owl - first one, then another and another.

Yep.  There they were - two more Short-ears.  Awesome!