[birding] Owls, owls and more owls at Finley

Lisa Millbank lisaaves at peak.org
Sun Dec 28 21:54:42 PST 2008

Thanks Dave,
I didn't know that about Short-eared Owls and harriers roosting together.  I didn't think harriers would get along well with others, but I guess they have an understanding with the owls. 
Tonight, the owls appeared to be coming in to the prairie from another location east of the refuge.  The harriers seemed to originate mostly from the middle prairie.  While I'm not sure if they're sharing the same roost at this time, it did look like they had some affinity for one another as the "flocks" joined together.  I've never seen such a gathering, of either species.
I hope someone can stake out the prairie overlook for the Corvallis CBC.  The owls appeared around 4:30pm.
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: David Irons 
  To: Lisa Millbank ; Mid-Valley Birders 
  Sent: Sunday, December 28, 2008 8:47 PM
  Subject: RE: [birding] Owls, owls and more owls at Finley

  Hi Lisa,

  Don't know if you are away of this, but Short-eared Owls and Northern Harriers often roost communally. It is typical for harriers to assemble and circle over the roost about the time of day the owls emerge from the roost, which creates a scene like you describe. Before Willamette Valley agriculture became a road shoulder to road shoulder affair, there were a number of places in the valley where one might expect to see large roosts of Short-eared Owls. I can remember going to a site out in the middle of Sauvie Island in the late 1970's (Stuart Janes knew about this site) and seeing something like 27 Short-eared flush from the deep grasses that lined a large drainage canal that cut through the island. 

  In recent decades many of the deep grassy fields, grassy margins, and hedgerows that these owls used for cover and hunting perches have been eliminated as a result of hyper-efficient agriculture practices. Restoration efforts at the Prairie Overlook at Finley and the new wetland project along Diamond Hill Rd. east of Harrisburg have involved setting aside areas where grasses are allowed to grow to heights of 30" or more and this appears to be benefiting the owls. About a week ago I saw two Short-eared Owls flying around over the Diamond Hill Wetland in mid-morning. I'd heard that there were a few areas south of Brownsville that used to have wintering Short-eared Owls, but I had never seen one anywhere in Linn Co. despite doing lots of birding in the county. I suspect if one was there at dusk on a nice day (the Brownsville CBC did not qualify) they might see a number of owls. We were there just before dusk in driving rain on the Brownsville CBC (26 Dec) and observed several Northern Harriers coming in from multiple directions and circling around over the deep grass behind the ponds. I presume the harriers and owls are both using this area as a winter roost. 

  Your report of +/-12 owls is the largest single site tally for the Willamette Valley in many many years.

  Dave Irons
  Eugene, OR

  From: lisaaves at peak.org
  To: list at midvalleybirding.org
  Date: Sun, 28 Dec 2008 20:07:06 -0800
  Subject: [birding] Owls, owls and more owls at Finley

  Sunday 12/28
  Don and I started out early at Finley, expecting a day of rain.  We were clad in waterproof nylon from head to toe.  The weather turned out much better than the forecast, so our outfits got a bit clammy and we punctured many little holes in them as we pushed through the blackberry vines.  But it was a great adventure.

  North of Bald Top, a shy HERMIT THRUSH flew before I could raise my binoculars.  A VARIED THRUSH, RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET, and a couple of WINTER WRENS were singing, although their voices were a little rusty. RED-BREASTED SAPSUCKERS and HAIRY WOODPECKERS were calling. 
  Many GREAT HORNED OWL pairs are feeling excited about their upcoming breeding season and are singing their duets in the middle of the day.  We heard at least 3 pairs today.  As we walked, Don spotted a big brown bird flying into a tall stand of Douglas-fir.  It was a BARRED OWL, which was very exciting.  It was the best look at this beautiful owl either of us has ever had.  I appreciated his deep brown eyes, and really nice stripes.  See the video stills at http://groups.google.com/group/mid-valley-nature/browse_thread/thread/43f74422c022bb73.   

  We saw an unusual sight at dusk from the prairie overlook platform.  I noticed a bunch of floppy-winged, short-tailed large birds coming from the east.  After a brief moment of confusion, it was clear that this was a flock of 7 SHORT-EARED OWLS!  I think of them as birds you might see one or two of, if you're lucky.  They flapped and glided, mothlike, over the south part of the north prairie, and the middle prairie.  A huge congregation of NORTHERN HARRIERS swept up into the flock of owls (I believe more owls showed up, totaling around a dozen), until there were at least 25 owls and harriers swirling around together, looking like an autumn "kettle" of Turkey Vultures.  Some of the birds were either frolicking or sparring aggressively.  I believe the cold and snow north of us has pushed many Short-eared Owls, and maybe harriers too, out of their normal winter quarters.  Don got a so-so video of the owls.     

  We have more about the mammals, amphibans, plants and fungi at http://groups.google.com/group/mid-valley-nature/browse_thread/thread/43f74422c022bb73.


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