This is one of the coolest photos I've seen of this species. They have appropriated a nest box that was built specifically for one of Ohio's rarest breeding birds, Common Merganser. Little Beaver Creek, which flows through Columbiana County and is one of Ohio's most pristine streams, supports Ohio's only breeding population of these saw-billed fish-eating ducks. In an effort to bolster merganser populations, Jim Dolan and compadres have installed a number of these boxes. Like Wood Ducks, Common Mergansers are cavity nesters.
The little hooters didn't care who put this box up, and why. Apparently they felt it fit them just fine. Here we see them attempting to block any merganser who might try and enter :-)What's more amazing is that this pair is of mixed morphs - both a red and a gray screech-owl. Data shows that gray morphs become increasingly common northward in Ohio, while reds and grays are about equally common in the southern part of the state. But, you don't often see the two together like this! There is a rare brown morph, intermediate between the two. Perhaps we'll get a brown bird from these two, who knows.
Columbiana County is one of the most beautiful areas in Ohio. It is full of interesting breeding birds, and there are probably lots of interesting and unexpected finds to made there. With that in mind, Jim Dolan has organized a "blockbuster" for Columbiana County as part of the ongoing Ohio Breeding Bird Atlas II. It'll be the weekend of June 7 & 8. I'm going up, and I believe Atlas coordinator Aaron Boone is too, along with a number of other birders. Should be an interesting and fun time. If you would like to participate, we'd like to have you. Just flip me an e-mail at: email@example.com and I'll get you details.