Friday, January 16, 2009

Owl Prowl

On the East Waco Christmas Bird Count, Short Eared Owls were found off Old Mexia Road. E.G. White-Swift and his son, Joey, had noticed Northern Harriers in this field earlier in the day. Knowing that Short Eared Owls occupy the same habitat at dusk, they returned as the sun was setting to wait in hope of seeing the owls. Those with patience and forbearance are oft rewarded, and so they were.

A week later E.G. promised to lead a group of Central Texas Audubon members and friends to the location. Meeting at 5:00 PM, we traveled to the field arriving about 25 minutes later. With the light and temperature dropping, through binoculars and scopes, we watched three Northern Harriers dance across the field and around the cattle grazing. Then one of the Short Ears started to work the far reaches of the field opposite from where we all stood. A second appeared and both flew directly at us and eventually over the cars. Back around they came and split; one right, one left. Having checked out all four corners of the territory, they began to work the field again. I can tell you that it became almost a party atmosphere as we bore witness to these birds and their crepuscular activity.

A few evenings later some more birders were at the field. Bryan Stone took these wonderful pictures. One includes a pair sparring with each other. These owls are rare sightings in McLennan County, so it is a delight to behold.

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