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Tag Archives: Owl

Last month, as we longed for 2020 to end, I was inspired to put up a 2020 Christmas tree in the snow. It was a dead, burned pine from the 2014 fire. It had finally fallen over and I dragged it home through the snow and set it up where I could see it from the house. I even put a few decorations on it. It still stands out there. We also had a lovely evergreen inside the house.

Two days ago, as the dogs and I returned from a walk, I noticed something new in my tree. Not any bigger than my fist, it was a Northern Pygmy Owl. We were going to have to walk near it to get in the house and I was surprised that it didn’t leave its perch even though we were barely social distancing. My camera was inside ready for this moment. I have seen a pygmy owl here a couple of times in the last month and had hoped for a good opportunity to photograph it. Many others are seeing them here in the valley. I wonder if there is a bit of a pygmy owl irruption this winter? Last year I did not see any. Yesterday I saw one from the ski trail and couple weeks ago, I saw one while walking in the hills across the valley.

I saw it again late yesterday afternoon as dense fog rolled in. It was perched in a live pine with a fine view of the bird feeders. These tiny owls generally weigh less than 2 1/2 ounces and are ferocious predators, sometimes taking California Quail and Northern Flickers. The Cornell Lab has more info on Northern Pygmy Owls here.

 

Yesterday we went birding. We made a big loop around Okanogan County, crossing the mountains between the Methow and the Okanogan, up on the plateau on the east side of the county, and then down to the big river (Columbia) and back up the Methow. During the day we saw over sixty species of birds, two coyotes, one beaver and three pronghorns! This was my first time seeing pronghorns in Washington. The Colville Tribes have re-introduced them on their lands and the animals have quickly spread with reports of them across the Columbia in Douglas County. I wonder if they swam or crossed a bridge. Do pronghorns swim?

As for birds, I was disappointed that we didn’t see more little birds and also cranes. I often see Sandhill Cranes in March. I’ll have to try again soon. The landscape was drier than usual. Normally roads are pretty muddy with more snow on the ground. The weather was perfect. I think it must have been sixty degrees down on the big river.

As for social distancing, we did not talk to other people or go into any businesses.

This little Northern Saw-whet Owl may have thought otherwise. Ken wanted to see if we could find them so I told him to watch for white wash under dense trees and if he did, he should look up. Sure enough, it worked and he found this tiny owl tucked up in some branches pretty well hidden. It was very hard to photograph.

Yesterday’s bird list for the whole day:

Canada Goose

Swan sp

Gadwall

American Wigeon

Mallard

Northern Pintail

Green-winged Teal

Canvasback

Redhead

Ring-necked Duck

Lesser Scaup

Bufflehead

Common Goldeneye

Hooded Merganser

Common Merganser

Ruddy Duck

California Quail

Ring-necked Pheasant

Wild Turkey

Pied-billed Grebe

Horned Grebe

Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Mourning Dove

American Coot

Killdeer

Common Loon

Double-crested Cormorant

Great Blue Heron

Golden Eagle

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk/Northern Goshawk

Bald Eagle

Golden/Bald Eagle

Red-tailed Hawk

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Belted Kingfisher

Northern Flicker

American Kestrel

Say’s Phoebe

Black-billed Magpie

American Crow

Common Raven

Black-capped Chickadee

Horned Lark

Tree Swallow

Violet-green Swallow

Pygmy Nuthatch

European Starling

Western Bluebird

Mountain Bluebird

American Robin

House Sparrow

House Finch

American Goldfinch

Dark-eyed Junco

White-crowned Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Spotted Towhee

Western Meadowlark

Red-winged Blackbird

Brewer’s Blackbird

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Remember the Great Horned Owls from this post? I continued to visit them, not too frequently, but often enough to follow the progress of the nest. I was up there on May 11 and 23 and June 6. Three days later all of the owls were gone – mom, dad and the youngster. I don’t think the little one had any flight feathers so I don’t think it survived. On the 6th, there was someone camped in front of the nest and also the adjacent vacation cabin had a LOT of guests. Maybe it was disturbance? Maybe the owlet died of natural causes and the parents left? Maybe they could not feed it enough although I think it looked healthy. Maybe mouse poison or pesticide use? I’ll never know. Hopefully they will return next year and try again.

As the days grow warmer, new birds migrate to the nesting areas and begin setting up their territories, declaring them from tree tops, fence posts and signs. During yesterday’s early morning walk, I heard bluebirds, sparrows, finches and meadowlarks. Owls wake us up at night with their hooting. There is so much to see and hear!

Here is the song of the Western Meadowlark from the Cornell website.

Early last week I sat down to eat breakfast and noticed that I had a guest. Just outside the window was a Northern Pygmy-owl perched on the deck railing. So close I could almost touch the bird. These owls are very small – less than seven inches long with a wing span of twelve inches and weighing 2.5 ounces! They have false ‘eyes’ on the back of their head in order to confuse potential predators. They nest in tree cavities in conifer or deciduous forests in the mountains and move to lower elevation when the snow falls. They eat small rodents and songbirds as well as insects. This bird was watching my feeders where there were at least three¬†types of finches to choose from – House Finch, American Goldfinch, Pine Siskins.

My breakfast got cold as I watched and photographed the owl. It didn’t mind when I moved around inside the house, trying to find a place where the windows weren’t too dirty. My camera was more interested in focusing on the dirty windows rather than the owl! Finally Sky noticed the owl and walked towards it with evident curiosity. At first the owl didn’t seem bothered by her but then she barked and the owl flew to a new perch.

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