Thursday, May 27, 2010
Talking Northern Saw-whet Owl
After a day of regrouping at home on Tuesday, including hearing more than seeing my resident birds, I headed off to Roan Mountain yesterday afternoon to be there by dusk. The photo above says it all.
In May of 2007 my sis and I did a bird trip that included a stop at Roan Mountain, which is in Tennessee, to see if we could locate a northern saw-whet owl. It was about 10 days earlier in the month and pretty chilly at dusk. I listened, but did not hear anything calling. Then we played the call of the owl, and soon we had one calling nearby. We were not able to draw it out to get a look, but at least we knew one was on the mountain.
Last nite I arrived in time to watch the sunset and get the photo before slowly walking up the closed to cars road. It took about 15 minutes of intermittent playing of the owl call before I heard one approach the road. I wanted to see it this time, so I played the call a couple of more times when I saw a bird flash across the road. I shined my light on the trees where it was now calling, but it was still too deep.
I played the call one more time, watching the road to see if it would fly out when suddenly it flew straight at me, literally bouncing of the top off my head. I have had whiskered screech owls in Arizona, and great skuas in the highlands of Scotland dive bomb me, but this was the first time a bird actually struck me.
After the near knockdown, I heard the bird calling again, and finally was able to shine my light on it sitting on a limb out in the open. It did not hang around for long, nor did I since I had a 200 mile drive to get back home so that I could sleep in my own bed.
Today is the end of week #21. The week's bird count reached 111, and with the northern saw-whet the YTD number is now at 592. There is an updated travel map posted at the top. I will be going out to Hatteras, NC tomorrow to do 4 consecutive days of pelagic birding. 600 birds before June 1 is definitely a possibility. Stay tuned!