Nature Story – A Peril of Owling

By: Pip Winters

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!

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