My life is about living with nature – here you can live it with me!

Things you find at dusk!

This evening I went out searching for some early arrivals of the American Woodcock here in Allegany State Park. My searching started close to dusk where I almost stepped on a caterpillar while getting out of my truck. Not exactly sure which species of caterpillar this is but looks like it could be in the dagger family (See photo below). Finding this little fuzzy caterpillar had encouraged me to continued searching for little things on the pavement. It didn’t take long before I located another caterpillar called the Woolly Bear. But, this one wasn’t photographable because it was about as flat as a quarter. You can only find on so many dead Woolly Bears on the pavement before you start focusing your energy on something else (like unusual sounds).

Along the Road

Didn’t take long before I heard my first sound of the night …. Could it be the twittering sounds of the woodcock during its display?? …. I couldn’t hear it anymore, so I decided to start walking again!…… There it is again, what is it?…… What a dork I am; it was just the swishing sounds from my pants. Ever stop the caravan of birdwatchers for the trash-bag up in the tree!! Ya, that is exactly how I felt!! But, seriously it sounded so much like the woodcock doing its song while up in the sky!! Really!!! OK it was now time to be serious about finding this early American Woodcock.

When you put your mind to something …… you can be sure that there will always be good results! This time I could hear something in the distance!! Without a doubt this is a new sound …… It sounds like a bird but this sound isn’t the American Woodcock! Hmmm….. had to work my mind on this one …… which owl does “whosssss awake, meee toooo”!! Few minutes later I hear it again ….. “whosssss awake, meee toooo”!! My day hasn’t been the best but this Dorky Nature Nerd remembers this bird as the Great Horned Owl!! CHECK – Year bird for 2007!! YEAH!! (FYI, this is the second year bird today, also had Common Grackles at the feeders). But, this wasn’t your typical Great Horned Owl!! This bird was located in an area that I have never heard them vocalizing before!! Hmmm, this isn’t just one but two birds vocalizing!! One bird has this very LOW call and the other sounds like a HIGHER pitch call! They sound like they are vocalizing right next to each other!! After about 15 minutes of listening to these two birds interacting together, everything becomes silent again. Well, except for the sounds my pants walking back to my truck.

Once I got home, I decided to look up the Great Horned Owl in the Stokes Nature Guide to Bird Behavior (Volume 3). The Stokes state:Female hoots are shorter and higher pitched than those of the male. How cool, that was exactly what I had heard!! Reading on, they state: The male is the one that does the most territorial advertisement. Occasionally from two to five owls may be heard hooting in the evening, seeming to respond to one another. This is probably terrorial hooting between males, since females are generally silent except for the few weeks of courtship. Hmm, Could this be a pair that is behind in their courtship? I wonder if they had to start over after the 2 solid months of cold and snow?? I don’t think this was two males doing Territorial advertisements (I have heard this many times before). It was hard to say what exactly was happening but I will try to locate the nest in the next few weeks (and not scare them away). Another great day today, just love the spring time!

Common Merganser

A Common Merganser that I photographed on the Allegheny River during yesterdays birding.

15 responses

  1. Cool caterpillar! I feel bad the wooly was squished (sob!) – I love wooly caterpillars!

    I love your pants story, LOL!

    Cool! Great horned owls possibly doing their thing!

    Pretty common mersanger photo!

    I was going to stop at the bay today to see who is down there, and four male mallards were following after one female mallard in the parking lot – I didn’t want to disturb their action – but thought it was too funny to see all those boys were after the one girl!

    12 March 2007 at 10:36 pm

  2. Sounds like she has many choices! But, funny thing is that it is all for nothing! She will not be ready to do anything till another month or so! Sounds like us humans! Thanks for all your kind words!

    12 March 2007 at 11:27 pm

  3. Cool that you got to hear some amore!

    And I have been all excited by hearing a weird sound that I am sure is a bird, only to realize that it’s my keys in my pocket or something stupid.

    13 March 2007 at 12:26 am

  4. Marg

    How exciting!! Went out birding Saturday but no owls alas……..LOL at pants. I’m always hesitant to id birds when with more experienced birders on Saturday I said “what’s that in the field?” and the one fellow said Crow but no it was a Harrier! Not that there is anything wrong with crows I like them!……gee I haven’t visited your blog in awhile sorry about that!

    13 March 2007 at 4:33 am

  5. I am laughing out loud. First, I’m glad to learn about the amore of owls; second, your photos are so sharp; thirdly, you are the coolest dork I know.

    I have hit the break in the car thinking I see a hawk perched on electric poles when it’s just a transformer. And oh, yes, I take a second look at trash hanging on a tree. I’ve even mistaken my camera shutting off as a new bird sound…”where is it?”

    13 March 2007 at 8:27 am

  6. My wife takes every “Ooh, is that a…” comment out of my mouth with a shaker of salt for the same reason – 9 times out of 10 it’s usually something common or nothing at all. Oh well…

    Great horned owls are great to hear when you’re out and about. We had one up in the tree across the street a couple of weeks ago, which was a thrill, but unfortunately, he never came back. *Sigh*

    13 March 2007 at 8:32 am

  7. Don’t feel bad. Yesterday I saw an “unusual” bird up in the canopy above my backyard. I went in and got my binoculars and realized it was a Steller’s Jay (exceptionally common around here). C’est la vie!

    Cool story on the owls!

    13 March 2007 at 9:41 am

  8. I like your swishing pants story. It’s a relief to know we all respond to these cues the same way– the adrenaline rush of excitement precedes the goofy realization. I have photographed plastic bags in trees, just to make sure. Beautiful pic of that Common Merganser.

    13 March 2007 at 11:00 am

  9. Oh! Glad to have discovered your blog! 🙂
    –a fellow bug nerd

    13 March 2007 at 12:30 pm

  10. @ Susan – Isn’t it crazy when you do that?
    @ Marg, no worries and glad you were able to make it back! Always have to be careful before calling a bird with a big group!
    @ Mary – thanks so very much! I do try to be one cool dork!! I think most birders at one time or another have stopped for bags in the trees! Why do people have to litter like that and get out hopes up!
    @ Marty – if you don’t call them out and search, you never know what you might overlook! BTW: Very cool regarding the GHOW (too bad it didn’t come back)!!
    @ Liz, I know those Steller Jays are common where you are at but I would be excited to see one! That would be a great lifer for me!
    @ Robin – thanks and for sure we all have done it or we wouldn’t be nature lovers!!
    @ Bug Girl – very cool! Fellow Bug Nerds are always welcome here! Hope you come back to visit again!

    13 March 2007 at 5:43 pm

  11. I spent a bit of time up at Hasty once trying to figure out a high pitched bird whistle. When I’d hold my breath it would stop. Turned out to be a whistle in my nose!! Glad no one was around to see my face!

    13 March 2007 at 6:08 pm

  12. Linda O'Brien

    I know someone who does a cool woodcock dance. Maybe you should walk along with Ruth and provide the background music!

    13 March 2007 at 8:44 pm

  13. @ Lynne – I have heard that whistle nose bird before! It has been a year or so since it has made it to my neck of the woods though!
    @ Linda – wouldn’t that make a great video clip?

    13 March 2007 at 10:01 pm

  14. A great horned owl, a falcon’s only predator. What a great bird to add to your list. I hope to see some owlets here.

    13 March 2007 at 10:52 pm

  15. LOL, have to find the nest first! But, I will do my best!

    13 March 2007 at 11:29 pm

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