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Tag Archives: Owl

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.

Birding always brings something interesting. Sometimes when we go with expectations of seeing something in particular, our hopes are dashed when we miss it. But the search is always fun. Yesterday we went down to the Columbia River where it was warm and spring-like. Despite the warm temperature we did not see any swallows or bluebirds which have already made an appearance at my house. The water was calm and glassy giving us a beautiful background for the numerous waterfowl we observed. They are all in their spring plumage and the colors are brilliant in the strong sunshine – mallards, goldeneyes, canvasbacks and many more species were seen. We saw nests of Common Ravens and also Great-horned Owls. Bald Eagles, Northern Harriers and Red-tailed Hawks were paired up and some were cavorting in flight! We heard the songs of a Bewick’s Wren and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Western Meadowlarks sang in several locations.

We did have a target bird yesterday – Northern Saw-whet Owls. People have observed as many as five of them in the state park and we even knew which campsites to search for them. Unfortunately the state park staff was engaged in clean up with noisy machines – leaf blowers and leaf vacuums. We picked the group site to begin our search, as far from the machines as we could get. Two big evergreens seemed like likely candidates to shelter these tiny owls. We found the white wash we were looking for and even found pellets but could not spot a small owl. We began to take apart the pellets (a pellet is the part of the meal that is undigestable and is regurgitated onto the ground, usually composed of bones and fur) to entertain ourselves, making a tidy display of teeny little bones on a board.

Having had enough of fur and bones, we moved on to the rest of the campground despite the machinery. After a while I tired of that but Juliet kept looking while I went to the riverbank to see what I could see. I caught up with her at the last area, nearest where we had left the car as she was searching intently high in a dense tree with her binoculars. She said, it has to be here; look at this big white wash! I stood there and looked straght up into the tree and what did I see? A bird butt! I moved around and sure enough, there it was, a tiny Northern Saw-whet Owl looking down at me.

 

Small mammal bones

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These bones are tiny. The jaw bone on the left is maybe half an inch long.

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Small but ferocious

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The owl was more interested in people farther away than us immediately under it.

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It wanted us to leave so it could go back to sleep.

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This is a Double-crested Cormorant skull, one of two that we saw on the riverbank.

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