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Long-eared Owls continue

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  • vishnu
    On Thursday 7/17 Don Rowe & I observed 3 juvenile Long-eared Owls at the same location and under similar circumstances as has been previously posted. We
    Message 1 of 6 , Jul 19, 2008
      On Thursday 7/17 Don Rowe & I observed 3 juvenile Long-eared Owls at
      the same location and under similar circumstances as has been
      previously posted. We arrived at 8:30pm, hoping to catch some
      evidence, or view, of where these owls are roosting. Very little
      success in that regard; the owls just "manifest", flitting about in
      the trees and chaparral in the little canyon below the road just
      before 9:00pm. Whence they come is still their own secret although
      one, and possibly two, were heard giving weak calls on the opposite
      side of the road for about 3 minutes prior to the appearance of any
      of them. Our vantage point should have allowed us to see them cross
      the road but we did not see that. With a strong light and patience we
      gained excellent views of perched Long-eared Owls until about 9:20pm
      when they flew south across the little canyon where, too dark to see
      them now, they vocalized regularly, moving about the area until we
      left, about 10:30pm.
      During the evening 2 Barn Owls were heard, as well as a good many
      Screech Owls vocalizing in a variety of interesting ways; some in the
      distance and some quite close-by.

      On Tuesday 7/15 I made several recordings of these juvenile owls and
      have posted a one minute version in the "Files" section of this
      MendoBirds forum. After about 20 seconds you can hear a single adult
      owl "bark".
      The begging call tends to become very monotonous but on that same
      night I did hear one of the vocalizing juveniles suddenly become
      "more excited, as though food was being delivered", (to use Emily
      Heaton's description of a similar experience). Unfortunately the
      recorder, which had been performing flawlessly, had a cyber moment
      and crashed just when these new and different vocalizations occurred.

    • Emily
      Saturday - July 19 2008 The Long-eared Owls continue along University Road east of Hopland. Refer to earlier posts for directions. My husband and I arrived at
      Message 2 of 6 , Jul 20, 2008
        Saturday - July 19 2008
        The Long-eared Owls continue along University Road east of Hopland.
        Refer to earlier posts for directions.

        My husband and I arrived at 8:45 PM. We joined Chris Dunlap, from the
        Sacramento area. I'm not sure how long he had been there, but he
        hadn't yet detected any evidence of the owls. I suggested that we go
        over to the northwest end of the turnout (the downhill end) to look
        down into a small side canyon. This is where I had seen owls several
        days ago at dusk (July 16 post). Looking downslope across grassland,
        I saw a Long-eared Owl sitting on a log at the bottom of the draw/side
        canyon, about 100ft away. It had orange facial disks and long ear
        tufts – beautiful! We were immediately joined by Vishnu and 2 others.
        We first thought that the owl was an adult, due to the orange facial
        disks. However, we could also hear the begging call of a juvenile
        coming from the same area. Soon, a second owl jumped onto the log (it
        seemed to have jumped up from behind the log). This individual also
        had orange facial disks and ear tufts. The owls started making freaky
        head movements while staring at us – moving their heads around in
        circles or bobbing them back and forth. It seemed that their backs
        were slightly fluffy, and we decided these were almost certainly
        juveniles. Within 5 minutes, a third owl emerged. It seemed to fly
        down from a nearby tree (live oak?) or perhaps from the slope on the
        opposite side of the draw/side canyon. It landed on the log,
        displacing one of the other owls. At this point, the owls started
        becoming more active, making short flights between trees and the log.
        The begging calls became more frequent. Since all 3 owls were
        exhibiting similar behavior and looked similar, we assumed they were
        all juveniles.

        Within 10 minutes of the initial sighting, the owls moved down into
        the main canyon, still begging. They spread out, with ~100m
        separating some individuals. From my experience (this was my third or
        fourth visit to this turnout), the juveniles hang out in the main
        canyon after darkness sets in. I have only seen them in that side
        canyon at dusk, and both times that I've seen them there, they were
        close together and fairly active. This leads me to believe that they
        are roosting in that side canyon, near the log.

        Within an hour of our arrival, we heard something calling, moving up
        the canyon along the opposite ridge. (By this time, there were only 4
        observers). I can't remember the call very well, but it was different
        enough that Vishnu was prompted to pull out his recorder. I believe
        the call was a low-pitched barking, with about 1 second in between
        barks, but I could be wrong. As Vishnu was trying to get the recorder
        working, I saw a medium-sized owl fly up the canyon and disappear into
        the trees. Within a few minutes, we could tell that it was flying
        back down the canyon to the opposite ridge. I believe it was
        vocalizing, but we didn't get a recording. A few times, I thought the
        calls of one of the juveniles became more excited (higher pitched and
        slightly faster). It was calling from the same location that the
        adult seemed to have gone to. My interpretation was that an adult had
        brought food in to one of the young. However, I think only myself and
        Chris noticed any excitement in the begging. Vishnu said he had heard
        obvious, prolonged excitement in a begging juvenile (lasting about 6
        seconds or more) on a previous visit. We certainly didn't hear that.

        As I recall, the adult slipped off into surrounding lands without
        detection after that. We stayed until 11:20 PM and were unable to
        detect an obvious adult again. However, we did hear low-pitched
        barking (kind of like `wruf' or `wruck') ~200m away on several
        occasions; the direction varied. We kept looking around, expecting
        something to fly in, but nothing ever did, and then the barking would
        stop for prolonged periods. We noted that the young didn't seem to
        respond to these far-off calls by becoming more excited. There were
        several screech-owls in the area. They did some barking, although the
        quality of the far-off barks seemed to be different. We also heard
        dogs barking in the distance on occasion. However, there were some
        barks that seemed neither to be screech-owls or dogs. So maybe a
        Long-eared adult, maybe not. At any rate, visits by the parents seem
        to be very infrequent. We were there for almost 2 1/2 hours and only
        saw a likely adult once.

        For most of our visit, we were only able to pick out 3 distinct
        individuals at any one time. However, my husband and I definitely
        heard 4 individuals begging at one point. One up canyon, one down
        canyon, two in front of us – one near, one far. We heard calls coming
        from these different locations at least 3 times, so we were sure that
        we were hearing 4 juveniles (presumably juveniles, I don't think
        adults make that begging call), not 3 juveniles that were moving around.

        The screech-owls were exciting in their own right. We heard
        `squirrel-barks' on several occasions, like a demented laugh,
        sometimes trailing into the typical bouncing ball call. No barn owl
        on this visit.

        Emily Heaton (& Jacob Newell)

        Other observers please chime in if I've gotten something wrong or
        missed something.
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