[birding] Owls, owls and more owls at Finley

Jamie S. woodpecker97330 at yahoo.com
Mon Dec 29 00:34:33 PST 2008

In the mid-1990s, a couple of birders (Laurel Devaney and her husband, now in Alaska?  I've forgotten his name, but Rich Hoyer knows...) walked along a brushy drainage ditch on private land, away from roads but surrounded by fields somewhere between Finley and Corvallis and flushed around 30 (+/-5 ?) short-eared owls.  

Jamie Simmons

--- On Sun, 12/28/08, David Irons <llsdirons at msn.com> wrote:

From: David Irons <llsdirons at msn.com>
Subject: RE: [birding] Owls, owls and more owls at Finley
To: "Lisa Millbank" <lisaaves at peak.org>, "Mid-Valley Birders" <list at midvalleybirding.org>
Date: Sunday, December 28, 2008, 8:47 PM

#yiv536427591 .hmmessage P
#yiv536427591 {

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.  
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 
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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