It was a clear, crisp night, about 4C .There were a few wispy clouds when we set off owling. We headed for an area west of Hopetown contained in our Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas square. It seemed prime owl territory- wetland surrounded by spruce and cedar.
Using the atlas tape recording that features screech owl and barred owl calls, we made our first stop as dusk set in. Frogs were croaking but nothing else. No response to the calls.
Our second stop was about 1 km away. We heard owls as soon as we stopped the car. Two barred owls were calling but they were going further away from us. We hastily set up the “boom box” on top of the car…silence…screech owl(tape)….silence….barred owl(tape)………silence. Suddenly, the barred owls were calling back and coming closer. Barred owl (tape) again.
I was positioned by the car and my partner about 20 feet up the road. I looked NW through a corridor of trees and saw a dark shadow of wings coming towards me. Instinctively I put my hands over my head and ducked.
I heard a whoosh of wings and saw the owl circle and land in a tree across the road from me. Seconds later another owl landed near the first. We held our breath. The owls “chatted” to each other for a minute. Paul moved closer and one owl changed its position. I shone my flashlight under the first owl to get a better look. Another minute and they both flew noiselessly away. What a breathtaking experience!
As I migrate westward along Highway 7,
vulture sails in the first heat,
rocks and marsh shield the airways
over this land and its yard sale economy,
a red Studebaker glides by
called by a yellowthroat at the blueberry stand
Whitchety, witchety, whitchety…
Here is poem that I wrote this summer after coming back from a wonderful nature volunteer trip.
Pat Matheson and I really enjoyed helping with the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas work – we learned a LOT!
It was a great group consisting of 5 volunteers, 2 co-leaders and 2 birding experts (Larry and Diane) from the Lambton Wildlife group in Sarnia. We camped (for 5 nights) at Lake St. Peter Provincial park (in between Bancroft and Whitney) and had two beautiful lakeside campsites. The first day we all went out together – to be introduced to doing point counts and to learn about the work that we would be helping with. After that we had a wake up call each morning at 4:30 am – we then grabbed breakfast “to go” and were generally out and starting to work between 5:30 and 6 am. We would meet back at the camp between 12 noon and 1 pm. Then we could prepare a fabulous brunch/lunch. We could canoe/swim/hike and/or do more birding in the afternoon. Then the evening would be taken up in with meal preparations and fantastic conversations!!!
Sadly Diane Haselmayer – a Lambton Wildlife member and one of the leaders of our trip in June died suddenly in Peru August 30th. This poem was greatly inspired by Diane and my experiences doing thet Breeding Bird Atlas work.
I used to think you had to see
The Cardinal, Bluebird or Chickadee
But recently I learned something profound
That you can walk in the woods and know birds by their sound
Next time you hear “Quick… Three Beers”
You’ll know that the Olive-Sided Flycatcher is near
Or “Here I am.. Where are you?” again and again
And it will be the Red-eyed Vereo nine times out of ten
A quick “Whippity whippity whipit”
And you’re sure to find the Common Yellow Throat in a nearby thicket
A little chipping all around
And it could be the White-Throated Sparrow making this sound
But with a little pishing you could be surprised
By a Black Throated Blue appearing before your eyes
A melodious sparkling song in a glen?
It can only be the lovely Winter Wren
A quick short “Mew” in a tree
And the Catbird has let you know that it is he
Oh and a “pee a wee” you hear from afar
Is the Eastern Wood Peewee Flycatcher singing a few bars
It’s time to bring this birding notes poem to an end
So I can go out on the trail to make some more bird friends!