Loveland Rd.

Today we walked Loveland Rd. for a little ways past Drew’s Landing. A ruffed grouse was in the open alongside the road, so we paused. We were stoked when it strutted out into the road and showed off its namesake ruff! It also flared its tail and strutted around for a bit, before retreating into the woods!

Hunters Walking Trail

This evening, I walked a trail in Douglas Co. and heard a barred owl in a different spot than my 1st detection. I heard the owl in the woods beyond the clear cut. It could be the same owl as before! If so, I made a hypothetical home range. I wasn’t sure how far into the woods the owl was calling from, so I was generous with the area of woodland I incorporated in the direction of the owl vocalization.

The red stars are approximate locations of where I heard the owls from (hypothetically being the same individual). The red circle is the possible home range. The yellow box was drawn to show the southern boundary of my block.

Searching for Northern Saw-Whet Owls

From Birds of North America (BNA) account of northern saw-whet owls:

“Owl response rates lower on nights with wind speeds above Beaufort 2 than nights with wind speeds of Beaufort 0-2 ()…Clark and Anderson () found that Saw-whet Owls were more vocal when cloud cover was between 50 and 75%…Owl populations may be more stable than auditory censuses suggest because more owls are known to be present than are calling in some years, based on pellet, roost, and roosting owl searches ()…Sing from within a half hour after sunset until sunrise. Calling peaks at 2 h after sunset and decreases until just before sunrise ().”

Oulu CW

This year, I picked up a new atlas block for this final year of the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas! I’ll be the primary atlaser, but looking for all the help I can get covering this block! 🙂 Really excited to get out there and start looking for owls soon. I’m especially thrilled because this is a habitat priority block, covering the Brule River Boreal Forest State Natural Area (SNA).


Finally, Another Great Horned Owl Sighting!

I’m thrilled to say we finally saw another great horned owl in my atlas block tonight, about a year since my only other sighting! We staked it out as it was hunting, and we lost it when it flew almost parallel the road toward 11th street. We drove down 11th street hoping to relocate it, but no luck. It will be worth checking the surrounding blocks in that direction (e.g. 10th street, etc.) to see if we can find a nest!

If we were to stipulate that this is the same owl, the sighting was (as the owl flies) 1.25 miles away from last year’s sighting. Including the 2nd hand ore dock report, the owl sightings are within the distance bin of a successful male (largest total spring home range = 480 ha). If this is the case, here’s a map of a hypothetical (circular) home range that includes all the sighting locations within the circumference, so the nest could be somewhere therein!

Screenshot from 2018-04-30 15-53-25
480 ha circle that includes all of the GHOW sighting locations within the perimeter.

Alternately, of course, it could be 2 different owls! We’ll never know for sure, but it would be great to find out more.

Valentine’s Evening Luck: Barred Owl!

I was so thrilled to have my 2nd identifiable sighting of an owl that might breed here last night: I saw my 1st ever barred owl in my atlas block! Unfortunately, it was just hunting, so I didn’t have any breeding activity clues. It caught my eye when it flew up to a telephone line, and then hunted the ditch below. It dove, but I’m not sure if it caught prey. Then, it flew off from the ground toward the lake. I lost it as it flew through a yard behind a house.

Here in MN they should start ramping up vocalizations soon! I wonder where it’s headed, and will have to go to potential areas nearby in the evenings to listen.

1st Night of Atlas Surveying for 2018!

Tonight from 5:00-7:30pm I went out to check my atlas block for the 1st time this year! It was a warm, windless evening, but dusk occurs now while after-work traffic is still relatively high. So, some of the spots I surveyed last spring close to the highway were too noisy. I went to Wisconsin Point to listen at 0.5 mi intervals along the road within my block, but no owls! It seems like such a great location for owls, and maybe it is, but I’ve never had luck surveying there. That’s the most well-birded area in my block, and also a place I’ve checked quite a bit by evening/night. Yet, the woman who reported the GHOW calling in Lester Park last night mentioned she didn’t hear the owl this evening in the dusk hours. It’s a good reminder that individual owls can be particular and only call within a certain time window, so perhaps I’m missing the ones that are there.

Tracking Down This Great Horned Owl

I’ve gone back to the spot I first found the great horned owl now several times, at the same time of the evening, and birded around there in the evening many more times to no avail. I did talk to someone down at the Loon’s Foot Landing ore dock who claims an owl comes around “once a year” and hunts from the ore dock. He said it hunts pigeons, and will sit on the dock to eat its kill. This is right across the street from where I saw the owl, so let’s assume it’s the same one. I’ve since looked around the area extensively for nests, and now have my ears out for fledglings, but no luck so far.

Let’s assume the great horned owl I found was an unsuccessful male. I don’t have much to go on for that assumption, and it very well could be wrong: I’ve never heard any calling in my block, and you’d think an unpaired male would be more vocal later in the season. I made a possible home range map based on the measured spring home range for unsuccessful males in Wisconsin: 279 ha (Petersen & Nehls 1979). I did the “full spring” range because I’m not sure when the ore dock sightings occurred. I also put the known locations at the western periphery, because several repeat visits didn’t yield a sighting of the owl (though this could be wrong because often the full home range isn’t utilized, especially in spring), so perhaps it’s found in those places infrequently because those locations are more toward the edge of where it hangs out.

Screenshot 2017-05-13 12.33.09
With hopes it hangs out somewhere in the bounds of my block, and based on previous years’ sightings, this could roughly be its home range.

I put the sightings at the western periphery so that the home range was more in the block.

Literature Cited

Petersen, LeRoy R.; Nehls, Susan, Editor. Ecology of great horned owls and red-tailed hawks in southeastern Wisconsin. (Technical bulletin. (Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources), No. 111) Madison, Wisconsin: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, 1979. 63 pgs.