Looking for Owls in All the Wrong Places

Some birders say that the best way to find an owl is by listening for jays and crows harassing them. Others say that the trick is to look for whitewash on tree trunks and pellets underneath. And still others prefer to play owl calls in the evening. Personally, I find the most reliable way to find owls is to look for a gaggle of binocular wielding birders staring up into a tree and saying, “Look! An owl!”

I certainly could have used that help this morning. Beth and I met up with Don Burggraf, a birder from Maryland, about 7:30 A.M. He’d come to New York specifically to find the Long-eared Owl that’s been hanging out in Prospect Park for almost two months. I had checked it out on Wednesday, and it was still sleeping in its usual tree. However, Murphy’s law prevailed; and today for the first time since Rob Jett first found the owl back in January, I couldn’t find it.

Don and I both scanned up and down the usual pine tree from a variety of locations; and I am 99% sure that owl was not in that tree this morning. (I say 99% because it’s really good at hiding, and just maybe it found an even more obscure position in the tree.) We checked all the pines in the near vicinity. No luck. We walked down to the base of the hill to check out some pine tree where it’s occasionally been known to take prey to consume before returning to its usual perch. Nothing there either. We did a full circle of Lookout Hill checking every pine for owls. Nothing.

We walked down to the Quaker cemetery and scoped a pine tree that looked good owls and thought we might have it for a minute, but it proved to be a trick ofg light and shadow. We finally followed Center drive up to the Botanic Gardens. Don did spot a Red-tailed Hawk, but nocturnal raptors continued to elude us. Jays were occasionally calling, but not in the numbers or frequency that would indicate they had found the owl.

We finally tried one spot in the Japanese Garden where I’d been keeping an eye on some apparent whitewash. The whitewash was still there and didn’t look too old, but no owl was found. We gave up about 10:00 A.M., and Don headed up to Croton Point to try for the Long-eared Owl there. We did have a good morning with 22 total species including Brown Creeper, Common Grackle, and Hairy Woodpecker; but I’m afraid the owl search was a bust. :-(

2 Responses to “Looking for Owls in All the Wrong Places”

  1. Mokka mit Schlag » Long-eared Owl relocated Says:

    […] Yesterday afternoon I got the following e-mail from Don Burggraf, who as you may remember joined me on an unsuccessful expedition Friday to locate the Long-eared Owl. […]

  2. Joe Hollner Says:

    I live a few miles West of Downtown Albany, and I’ve been looking for owls in the pinebush, and I have no luck with that. Prospect Park; I’ve been there last summer, and loved it. I went back over there last month, only to find it was closed. :( If you find anything now, please let me know!

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