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A recording of Merriam's is at http://earbirding.com/blog/archives/454
It is the most likely species here. The speed does pick up at the end but the quality is not as penetrating and a bit lower-pitched than a saw-whet. I agree it would not carry as well as a saw-whet's call.
My “one second” interval was entirely a spur of the moment estimate - the calls were very quickly repeated and could easily have been less than a second. But I won’t rule out chipmunk, either, except to say that the call seemed to be coming from a fair distance away, and if it was a chipmunk he would have needed a good set of lungs. Do you have a recording of whatever sp. of chipmunk would have been up there?
Phil and all,
Not ruling saw-whet owl out but Birds of North America Online says calling speed is “about 2 per second.” I can vouch that an agitated saw-whet will briefly produce notes even faster. I think a speed nearing a second apart would be more in the Merriam’s Chipmunk range.
San Diego, CA
This morning (Tues.), while looking for the mythological Red Crossbill (aka the toilet paper bird), I heard at a distance an incessant call that seemed to meet the requirements for a Saw-whet Owl. The loud sharp notes, a whistled sup, sup, sup . . . , were about a second apart, and went on and on and on . . .
The Bird Atlas notes that it calls “rarely even at midday”. I’d estimate it was about 9:30 a.m. when I heard it while at the toilet paper site. That would be near the southernmost portion of its regular range.
Just wondering, if any one else who was up there looking for easily spotted wildlife (such as Bigfoot, Jimmy Hoffa, and purported Crossbills) also heard anything they suspected of being a Saw-whet Owl?