Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Round Lake Nature Notes: Out and About Winter 2014

Out and about this winter, Great-horned Owls have been heard hooting it up around the village all night long and sometimes, even through the wee hours of the morning. Very vocal owls have been reported from Washington Avenue to Goldfoot Road, up on Mount Morris, around the Auditorium, and over on Simpson and Saratoga Avenues. Thanks to all who told me when, where, and whooo it was by imitating its call. One cold, clear night my husband came in from walking the dogs and said the owl was on Mount Morris. I ran over to listen. It hooted every fifteen seconds. It did this for over an hour, not that I stood outside listening for that long. Walking back to my house by the children's playground, I realized I could still hear it. I compulsively went out on my porch every five to ten minutes listening for it until it stopped. The next day I went over to look under and up in the trees on Mount Morris which sits between Covel and George Avenues. A towering White Pine had a lot of whitewash on its trunk. Both my dog and I discovered a couple of owl pellets under the tree - a roost! I would have examined the pellets more closely but Athos was too interested in them. Unfortunately, the next day they were covered with a foot of snow.
    The winter hooting is usually about owls defending their territory before egg laying. They hoot a lot again in the fall when their young leave the area. Down the Zim Smith trail, about a quarter mile from South Lawn, a Barred Owl keeps its distance from the Great-horned. Wisely so, as its the Barred Owl's main predator. I've seen the Barred several times this winter, roosting along the trail or in the woods. One afternoon it startled me and Athos with its "Who Cooks For You-Who Cooks For You ALLLLLLL." As loud as it was, I couldn't locate it. Another day I came across it roosting in a tree thirty feet off the trail. It was camouflaged perfectly against the tree's bark. I saw it at 9:30 in the morning and again at noon and 4pm. It didn't seem to move a bit throughout the day. By noon it was bathed in sunlight and still was at four o'clock. A perfect perch on a cold winter's day. . . .  I haven't seen or heard it in a couple of weeks even though I take my life in my hands, slipping and sliding on the icy trail looking for it.
    A couple of weeks ago, at the end of Peck Avenue, I saw what looked like a super-sized crow being mobbed by smaller crows. Then it opened its mouth and gave a Croak and I knew it was a Raven. Later, after a village meeting, Scott Rigney showed me a picture on his phone of a Raven he saw in the woods between his house and the ball field. There were two of them. A couple of other villagers had also seen one. Scott mentioned that he heard Sue Northrup's mom had Ravens at her house on Goldfoot Road. I was able to speak to Sue who told me that her mom would put out food for them and one would come in and then be joined by several more. They would hang out in the wooded area between Goldfoot and Morris Roads.  Having not seen Ravens before in town, maybe they're venturing out and about a bit more.
    There have been lots of Bald Eagle sightings recently. They are probably waiting for ice-out so they can fish. Jean Sweet almost had an eagle as a hood ornament. After chatting on Janes Avenue, Jean started driving and I saw her brake quickly. An eagle had flown down from Prospect Avenue low over her van - only twenty feet above my head. I could see it picture perfectly! It circled over Schoolhouse Park several times before flying back toward the lake.  Happy Spring?!

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