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