Friday, August 5, 2011

Barn Owl in willow

Photo: Dane Adams

While poking around the impoundment at Lorain Harbor on Lake Erie on August 2, Larry Richardson was surprised to find this Barn Owl hiding amongst the foliage of a large willow tree. Dane Adams stopped by later and took the interesting photo above.

Barn Owls are near their northern limits in Ohio, and are quite the rare breeder. There are perhaps 50 known breeding pairs in the state. Barn Owls, at least at northern latitudes, do migrate but most fall migrants occur much later in the season than this bird. The habitat in the general area of highly industrial Lorain Harbor doesn't seem conducive to breeding Barn Owls, but who knows. An old power plant - the one that used to discharge warm water into the harbor and keep it ice-free in winter - is just a short flight from where Larry found this bird. I've always seen brown (Norway) rats scamper across the asphalt in this area on a few occasions. Maybe owls have taken up residence in the decommissioned and unused power plant, and dine largely on rats.

Or maybe it's a post-breeding dispersal bird; an unseasonably early migrant that turned up in one of Lake Erie's migrant traps. Whatever the case, finding a Barn Owl in Ohio is always a treat and congrats to Larry for finding it, and to Dane for sharing the photo.

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