Searching for the elusive Saw whet owl

Took a quick run to PA this morning to see if I could find a Long eared owl or a Saw whet.  I have been striking out on Saw whet the last few years and I was hoping that my luck would change.  The weather was very cooperative and it was pretty toasty by 7 am.    Although I spent an hour knocking on the usual doors I struck out on both Long eared and Saw whet.  This is the first time I've been out to this spot in November and I am hoping that my luck will change later in winter.

I was lucky enough to see a Screech owl popping its head out of a 'Wood duck box'.  I had to chuckle to myself considering that I am the only person in the world who can't attract a Screech owl pair to my owl box.  To add salt to the wounds my blog is named after the aforementioned vacant owl box.  I had to wonder if I'd get a tenant if I started calling it a Wood duck box.  To be consistent I will also need to change the name of the Blog to the Wood duck box.... doesn't have the same ring does it.  How about Wood duck owl box blogspot - shoewee what a mouth full ;-)

Anyway here is a photo of the Screech owl that was mocking me with his/her cuteness.  This is the first photo that I've taken with my 300mm lens and the 1.4 extender.  I'm pretty impressed with the results, especially give that I had to manual focus it.  I also found a very cooperative Great Blue Heron.


Barn owls help wine drinkers!

Next time you drink a glass of California Chardonnay say a silent thank you to the Barn owls.  Farmers in California are starting to use Barn Owls to control the rampant gopher population. Farmers use owls to kill gophers.

Barn owls are gopher eating machines:
In warm weather they'll eat two rodents per night and in cold weather that increases to three or four per night. Once we have babies in the nest that increases to one per night when the chicks are just hatched and up to six per night when the young are about ready to fledge!
Barn owls are ideal for land managment as human interaction does not seem to bother them.  This is not withstanding their highly developed sense of hearing - they can actually hear gophers chewing on roots under the ground.  Additionally, Barn owls aren't territorial and unlike other raptors they don't spend the bulk of their time chasing competitors away.

I would encourage anyone who has heard a Barn owl in their area or who has suitable habitat to put up a Barn owl box. 

Here are a couple of sites that may be useful:
Nesting box - Barn owl box company
Biology - http://owling.com/Barn_nh.htm
Box placement and maintenance - http://www.wildlife-center.org/where%20and%20how%20to%20hang%20a%20nesting%20box.htm

The human side of blogging

One of my blog features that I love the most is when readers stop by and introduce themselves.  I've actually had the opportunity to meet a few of these people in 'real' life, but even in the cases where I haven't, it's nice to know a little more about the people that stop by my blog.

If you haven't done so please introduce yourself by clicking here.


Itching to find a 'winter owl'

As I typed the heading I realized that the title of this post is incorrect as I have already bagged a Snowy owl, which clearly qualifies as a 'winter owl'.  The Snowy I tracked down a couple of weeks ago was actually my first  Snowy in NJ.  So what other winter owls are out there.  On the list is Saw whet, Long eared and Short eared owl.  I have struck out on Saw whet for several years now and this year doesn't look very promising based on the slow migration rates in the states around us.

Along with the typical winter owls I am also hoping that a Great horned owl nesting spot will be used this year.  Anyway, hoping to do some owling this upcoming Thanksgiving weekend.  If I manage to track down an owl it will be earliest winter owl I've managed to track down.

Other reading:
Who's hoo?  The owls of New Jersey 


Land trust preserves in NJ & PA

If you’re in NJ or PA and looking for some great birding spots make sure to check out the nature preserves managed by the Natural Lands Trust - a non-profit organization that obtains and sustains throughout Southern NJ and Eastern PA. There are two preserves in New Jersey (one in Millville and one in Newport) which are open to the public, free of charge, every day from dawn until dusk. Both of these preserves have been listed as “Important Birding Areas” and there are many birding outlooks on the trails.  

For more info on the NJ and PA preserves check out www.natlands.org

Thanks to Chelsea Mathers for bringing this to my attention!



A snowy owl adventure with my favorite birder!

Scanning the NJ listserv on Thursday I noticed that a Snowy Owl had showed up pretty close to home.  I emailed a few folks on got some tips on where the owl was being seen.  The stars were aligned as my daughter was off from school on Friday.  My daughter is 7 years old and she is starting to show some more interest in birding.  On Thursday she initiated an impromptu bird walk, so it wasn't too hard to convince her to make the trip out for a rare Snowy owl.

We headed out around 11 am on a BITTERLY cold day that reminded me of the Super Bowl of birding weather - COLD.  When we got there I re-read the instructions and realized that the owl was being seen some distance away.  We bundled up and make the hike to the other side of the reservoir.  We then hiked through the brush (thorny) and scouted the water line.  No dice!   I looked over to the reservoir wall and saw several birders looking down the wall.  We hiked across there and we saw a few folks camping at the bottom of the wall, apparently watching the owl.  By this time my side kick was pretty pooped, but I wasn't going to allow us to go home empty handed.

We made the trek down and enjoyed some magnificent views of the Snowy owl! Awesome day with my little girl.  Happy veteran's day honey - thanks for making the trip with me!


Eagle owl in flight - amazing video

Vurtrunner's Channel on YouTube


Brown Pelicans

Took these shots while down in Aruba.

Wildlife in my yard

My hidden camera had a much more productive night on Friday evening.


New Trophy cam

I recently bought a Trophy cam to see what hides in my yard. So far I've had very little success. I've got some pretty bad photos of a Raccoon running around during a massive rain storm, some crows and this morning I took some photos of the local cat..... I've seen Fox around and I'm hoping to snap a photo of one soon.