For the Birds: Joining the owl party

I’ve written about my barred owl sightings before, but here is the official column version …

Photo by Chris Bosak
A barred owl perches on a Welcome to New York sign on the border of Hoosick Falls, N.Y., and Bennignton, Vermont, in February 2019.

Two weeks ago I wrote a column about the Winter of the Barred Owl. A photo sent in by a reader from Westmoreland showing a barred owl perched on a feeder pole in his backyard accompanied the column.

A day or two after the column was published, I received two more photos of barred owls perched on feeder poles in the Monadnock Region. Yes, these handsome, large owls have been quite prolific throughout New England this winter.

At the time of that writing, however, I hadn’t yet seen any barred owls myself this winter. That all changed with a visit to my brother, who lives in Hoosick Falls, N.Y., a small town just over the border from Bennington, Vt.

My son Andrew and I had a day of skiing planned at Mount Snow, and figured Continue reading

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Joining the barred owl party, Part II

Photo by Chris Bosak
A barred owl perches on a Welcome to New York sign on the border of Hoosick Falls, N.Y., and Bennignton, Vermont, in February 2019.

As promised, here’s Part II of my “joining the barred owl party” story.

Last week I wrote a column about the Winter of the Barred Owl and followed up with a post showing a few photos sent in by readers of barred owls perched on feeder poles. But, at the time of those postings, I hadn’t yet seen a barred owl myself this winter.

Yesterday, I posted a story and photos of my first encounter with a barred owl this winter. That happened on Wednesday. Here’s what happened on Thursday.

I woke up my teenage son Andrew early (relatively) for a day of skiing at Mt. Snow. My brother lives in a New York town that borders Vermont. As we cruised along the “Bennington Bypass” on this gray, misty morning I pointed out the “Welcome to Vermont” sign to my son. I glanced back quickly at the “Welcome to New York” sign that was now in my rearview mirror. I noticed the huge sign had a lump on the top of it.

Could it be another owl, I thought. Probably just a hawk (not that hawks are uninteresting, but they are rather common along highways) I figured, but I wheeled the car around anyway. Sure enough, it became apparent as we closed the distance that the lump in question was another barred owl. Winter of the Barred Owl, indeed.

I parked in a pull-off spot conveniently located in front of the sign and grabbed a few photos before heading to the mountain.

The first owl on Wednesday was photographed in a New York town that borders New England. The second owl was even closer to the New England border and it may be argued it was half in Vermont. Either way, it was nice to join the barred owl party.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A barred owl perches on a Welcome to New York sign on the border of Hoosick Falls, N.Y., and Bennignton, Vermont, in February 2019.

Joining the barred owl party

Photo by Chris Bosak A barred owl perches on a wire in Berlin, N.Y., February 2019.

Last week I wrote a column about the Winter of the Barred Owl and followed up with a post showing a few photos sent in by readers of barred owls perched on feeder poles. But, at the time of those postings, I hadn’t yet seen a barred owl myself this winter.

Then I took a trip on Wednesday to visit my brother in upstate New York near the Vermont border and joined the barred owl party. I was driving up Route 22 through Berlin, N.Y., when I noticed an owl perched on a wire going over the road.

I turned the car around to get another look, but the owl was no longer there, even though I had seen it about one minute before. I drove past the spot and turned onto the next side road to get turned around again. It looked as if the road would lead to a few farms. The largest flock of turkeys I’ve ever seen was gathered in a field alongside the road. The turkeys, about 40-50 of them, seemed fairly wary so I didn’t linger long.

I got back onto Route 22 and headed back toward my brother’s. The owl hadn’t returned to its spot on the wire over the road, but I did spot it on a wire that ran along the road. I pulled over onto the shoulder and grabbed a few shots. This wire was an even better spot as it was lower and made for a better photographic angle. The owl mostly focused on a field under the wire, but did take the occasional look over its shoulder. Again, I didn’t linger long but did get some good close-ups of this handsome bird.

I’ll post Part II of the story tomorrow. Berlin is border town with New England, near the point at which northwest Massachusetts meets southwest Vermont. Part II will bring us even closer to the New England border.

Photo by Chris Bosak A barred owl perches on a wire in Berlin, N.Y., February 2019.

Barred owls abound

After my latest bird column published in The Keene Sentinel this week, I received a few additional photos of barred owls from readers in SW New Hampshire. Funny how they are showing up on feeding poles so often.

Here is the column explaining the Year of the Barred Owl.

First (below) is the original photo I received and then two additional ones.

Photo by Bob Sullivan
This barred owl perched on a bird feeding pole and took several dives at a vole under the snow in Westmoreland, N.H.
Photo by Dale Woodward This barred owl was spotted on a feeder pole in February 2019 in Walpole Village, N.H.
Photo by Rick Allen This barred owl perched on a feeder pole in Swanzey, N.H., during February 2019.

For the Birds: The Winter of the Barred Owl

Photo by Bob Sullivan
This barred owl perched on a bird feeding pole and took several dives at a vole under the snow in Westmoreland, N.H.

In recent memory we’ve had the winter of the junco, the winter of the snowy owl, and the winter of the robin.

This seems to be the winter of the barred owl. Throughout New England, barred owls are being seen in greater-than-usual numbers.

I received an email and terrific photos from Bob of Westmoreland. On Super Bowl Sunday, he noticed a barred owl perched on the bird feeder pole in his yard. But the thrills didn’t stop there. Bob watched as the owl took a few attempts at snagging a vole in the snow beneath the feeder. Alas, the owl never got its prey.

“I kept pausing the Super Bowl every so often to check,” he wrote. “I have plenty of barred owls in the neighborhood, but this was the first time I ever saw one hunting at the feeder.”

Bob noted that smaller birds such as chickadees kept right on using the feeders and the owl paid them no mind.

People think of owls as nocturnal, but they can be active during the day. This is especially true of barred owls, which often call their eerie “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” hoots during the day.

The spike in sightings has been so pronounced that The Connecticut Audubon Society called on several bird experts to try to explain the phenomenon. Continue reading