November 7, 2015

Owl Prowl

On the evening of November 7, the Cayuga Bird Club led a field trip to look for owls in the greater Ithaca area. The weather had been overcast all day, which meant my IR camera had a chance of finding something other than rocks and tree branches.

One of our stops was a stand of tall evergreens at Dodge Road. Here, the IR camera showed a few warm spots in several trees, but in the darkness it was impossible to tell what they were. The club's  playbacks were able to elicit responses from an Eastern Screech Owl, which was nice. Then I noticed a warm spot near eye level not too far away, and to my surprise, it soon turned its head to reveal the unmistakable facial disk of an owl! Here's a video:

I would guess that this screech owl was about 10-15 yards away, and attempts to visually locate it with flashlights all failed. Soon the bird got bored of us and flew away.

After a brief drizzle, we arrived at Star Stanton Road, where our attempts at locating barred owls (or any owls) failed. Here's the group of birders listening intently:

As a consolation prize, I was able to see a small rodent - a jumping mouse perhaps - foraging in the forest floor:

Finally, we visited John Confer's Hammand Hill Owl Banding Station, where they had just netted a hatch-year female. We were treated to close looks at this beautiful creature:

When it came time to release the owl, it simply sat quietly on a stump, looking around curiously until it was finally prompted to depart by the banding student. Here's an IR video of its farewell.