I had a Short-eared Owl at HTSWA in Oct a few years back...probably 2006. The part that surprised me was its erratic moth like flight.
Okay, folks, it's getting pretty late, but Larry Arnold strongly suggested that I post these two findings so here goes:
(1) Late monday afternoon Cary Atwood and I made a quick trip up to Horsethief State Wildlife Area near Fruita. We saw a few really neat birds including an adult Bald Eagle sitting out in the middle of the river on a log on a sandbar. But right before dark, I saw something VERY whitish moving up from the grass right at the edge of an open field. Then, Cary and I both saw the bird and I immediately said, "It's an owl" as we watched it fly into the nearby woods. We never saw the bird again, but I have called in Great Horned Owls before just trying as best I can to imitate their hooting. Nothing. But, for those of you who own the "Big Sibley" guide, look on pages 272-273. Now, this bird was really too whitish underneath to be a GHO. So, the first bird that came to my mind was a Long-eared owl. The barn owl on the left is clearly the whitest bird underneath. But remember, Cary and I saw this bird fly into the woods and it was much too dark on its back and wings to be a barn owl. The adult male short eared owl on page 273 is, next to the barn owl, the most white or pale underneath. Unlike a lot of you more traveled birders, I have only seen one short eared owl in my life, but Larry tells me there was one fairly recent record from Horsethief in 2006. I will leave the rest to you!
Now for my sighting this morning. First, the directions. Drive to the state park at Corn Lake and park in the big parking lot to your left. Take the trail under 32 road and follow it until you come to the first big pond on your left. I spotted 3 terns together there this morning and looked them over pretty carefully with my binoculars(I had no scope). Even though Larry tells me that there are no fall records of this bird here, I am almost certain they were all least terns.For these birds, look on page 236 of "Big Sibley". Now look at the picture for the adult nonbreeding bird. This fits what I saw to a T!!! By the way, the birds were resting on a spit of land when I first saw them and then they were spooked by a small county pickup truck that was coming down the bike path for (I guess) some kind of maintenance. Anyway, when they flew I watched their manner of flight, their wings, and their short forked tails. There is little doubt in my mind that they were all least terns, but I will let all of you make your own conclusions.