Monday, January 16, 2012
Bill Lindauer, an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist, found a Long-eared Owl roosting in one of those red cedar trees buffering the meadow's edge in the above photo. I met up with Bill and his fellow OCVN'ers Dave Woehr and Nina Harfmann this morning to take a gander at the owl.
Caesar Creek State Park, contains an abundance of suitable habitat. You can bet there are probably other Long-eared Owls in the area.
We had a distinct advantage in that Bill knew exactly which cedar the owl was roosting in. We cautiously advanced, and spotted the white-washed branch, above, from a good 75 feet away. A quick scan with the binocs revealed the owl - producer of the guano - sitting a few feet higher in the tree.
Another benefit to the observer of remaining well outside the owl's comfort zone is that it will act naturally. If you are looking at a roosting Long-eared Owl and it is rigidly upright, body sleeked to impossibly thin dimensions and looking all the world like a broken snag, it is because the bird is on high alert. You've spooked it. Its next course of action would be to flush, and that's a bad deal for one of these highly nocturnal creatures. If a sharp-eyed crow or other songbirds spot it flying off, the poor owl is in for a lengthy torment, and its persecutors will probably summon all their buddies to join in. Worse yet, the owl becomes exposed to other predators, mainly larger birds of prey, who might wish to make a snack of it.
I think much consideration should be taken when deciding to report roosting Long-eared Owls. Revealing their location far and wide, such as through bird listservs, is sure to cause a stampede to the site. That's understandable, as Long-eared Owls are hard to find and quite charismatic. I personally want every person on earth to see one, as a personal experience with such a bird may well win converts to birds and conservation.
On the other hand, the owls' welfare comes first. If it appears that the owls are in a situation where excessive visitation may cause the birds problems, it may be better to keep them under your hat and not reveal their whereabouts. But in some situations, such as the one featured here, it is possible to have your cake and eat it too, so to speak. It takes a bit more time and effort, and a spotting scope, but distant views can be every bit as rewarding as getting right up in the owl's face.