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Owl G-Eared Up!

2/5/2024


I was excited to get out for some birding this weekend. The weather looked nice. It has been a while since we has some sunshine here, and we had a full weekend forecast for it. I mean - it was wrong, but the sun did come out some. In particular though, I was excited to see a species that I have not seen in a number of years.

Long-eared Owls are not exactly rare in the state, but they are close enough. They overwinter here in a few locations, but they are generally on private property or kept very quiet. Luckily, this spot is on public land. With that in mind, I skipped out of work on Friday morning (I was already over hours for the week) and headed out. I got to the spot a little after sunrise and found the roost with relative ease. The problem? No owls. I checked the area over again and moped all the way back to the car. Even though I was over hours, I headed home and worked some more.


Saturday, I woke up and, after a small debate with myself, grabbed my camera and headed out the door. I was not going to give up on those owls. I got there and found another birder already at the location. Both owls were there. One was sitting on what appears to be a favored perch, and the other was perched in a small cedar. The one on the stump is actually in a really good location. There is a single weed that comes up across the bird, but the camera will focus through it without issue. In spite of the perfect little window to shoot through, you could already see where people had walked into the roost area. The weeds are compacted practically all the way to the stump. It is a shame. To use an all-too-common phrase of the time, this is why we cannot have nice things. Owls are sensitive to disturbance, and encroaching on their space will cause them to leave. It is this type of behavior that leads to roost locations being kept so quiet. It only takes a few poorly behaved people to cause trouble for everyone else.


Soapboxing out of the way, it was great to see the two birds. I snapped some pictures, talked to the other birder briefly, and then got out of there. There was no need to hang out any longer than needed. I had my best shots of Long-eared Owl and went home 1,000 times happier than the day before.

Long-eared Owl

Sunday... I slept in. I knew how I wanted to end the weekend, though. What better way to cap it off than seeing a couple more owls. I set off in the afternoon and headed up to Celery Bog in Lafayette. This location is home to, perhaps, the most photographed Screech-Owl in Indiana. It is a beautiful red-phase Eastern Screech-Owl, and, as I figured, it was busy sunning itself when I arrived. I snapped a few shots here and then moved on to my last location.

Red-phase Eastern Screech-Owl

I got to my last location an hour before sunset. To my amazement, the Short-eared Owls were already out. I almost figured it would be too nice for them to be out early. Maybe it was. They were spending long amounts of time sitting on the ground in the tall grasses. When they were up, they were mostly distant. I counted around 8, which is down in numbers from earlier in the winter. With the warm weather, birds (cranes and geese most noticeably) have been moving back north. I wonder if these birds have started sneaking north as well. I got a few shots, but nothing of quality of previous visits here. As the sun set, a haze, followed by clouds, formed on the horizon and killed the light. I left about 20 minutes before sunset and headed home.


Even if everything did not quite go to plan, it was a good weekend. It is not every weekend that I can see both eared owls in the state. Happy to be out and enjoy some good weather. Next weekend is my last weekend before I leave. So, this will probably be the last post for a bit.


Thanks for reading,

Mike



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