Nine participants enjoyed a late winter evening of owling with excellent conditions and comfortable temperatures. Our group started the trip at the Elm St. end of the Burrage Pond W.M.A. in Halifax/Hanson. Our mission was to observe Short-eared Owls at this location since they have been regular here over the years and the nearby Cumberland Farms fields - another reliable location for this species - has not produced any recent reports.
While waiting for dusk at Burrage Pond W.M.A., our group was treated to the "peenting" of several American Woodcocks emanating from the tangles at the edge of a nearby clearing. Eventually, six birds were engaging in courtship display all around us. One participant was able to spot a peenting American Woodcock at the edge of the sandy trail and the entire group was treated to binocular views of this reclusive species. With all of the American Woodcocks vocalizing and displaying, it was difficult to remain focused on our quarry: Short-eared Owls. As the evening light faded, one participant observed two birds at the north end of the bogs that were possible candidates for this species. However, the birds were distant and the light was minimal, so we had to let these birds remain unconfirmed.
When we arrived back at the parking lot, we were lucky to have a vocalizing Eastern Screech-Owl. Though the bird was close and quite vocal, it did not venture beyond the thick cover of several young White Pines. Before leaving for our next stop, our group paused to observe the night sky and enjoyed incredible views of constellations and planets through our scopes and binoculars.
Next we decided to try for owls along West St. in Plympton since there had been a recent report of Barred Owls from this location. We tried for all of the regularly occurring owls in this type of habitat (mostly Red Oak/White Pine forest and some patches of Red Maple Swamp), but came up empty. Things picked up quickly, however, when we we made a stop at the bridge over the Winnetuxet River and had three calling Eastern Screech-Owls and unobstructed views of a red morph bird.
|Eastern Screech Owl|
With this flurry of activity, our group was energized and encouraged to pursue more owls. We decided that our next stop should be at Crooked Lane in Lakeville. We tried for owls at several stops along Crooked Lane and were rewarded with a vocalizing Eastern Screech-Owl near the bridge over the cattail marsh.
Lastly, our group checked an area in the vicinity of Pocksha Pond in Lakeville and one last stop at the Nemasket River in Middleboro. By this time the wind had picked up and the owling became a bit more challenging. Despite the lack of species diversity this evening, it was an enjoyable experience for all participants and an opportunity to study Eastern Screech-Owl vocalizations in areas with little noise and light pollution and few cars.
Stay tuned for the next club owl prowl to be scheduled sometime in early winter later this year.
- Jim Sweeney