Long-eared Owls


Just as last winter when a Northern Saw-whet Owl and at at least one Long-eared Owl roosted in my neighbor’s olive orchard near the south bank of Putah Creek about 1/2 mile downstream from Stevenson Bridge, several Long-eared Owls are currently roosting in the same orchard. My brother-in-law Mike Madison flushed 5 owls out of the same tree deep inside the orchard on two successive days and when I went to investigate I flushed one owl out of the same tree and found several elongated pellets plus white-wash on the ground and along some branches, suggesting that several owls had roosted there for at least several days. I placed my blind there hoping to photograph these easily spooked owls when they returned at dawn. But despite waiting for them yesterday from about 6AM until 8AM, they did not do me the favor. When I checked this morning, they were not roosting in this tree, but walking at random through the orchard I flushed three of them, two from the same tree under which I found again several pellets. The orchard is currently undergoing fairly serious pruning involving a chain saw which might explain why the owls have at least temporarily abandoned the tree in which they were first spotted as the work is now very close to that spot. Since the olive trees are very brushy and dense they provide excellent cover for the owls but make it almost impossible to spot them before they get spooked by my approach. So far I have only been able to observe them in flight as they swoop down from their roost, fly close to the ground and then swoop back up and out of sight as they settle into a different tree. In this respect they are very different from the Northern Saw-whet Owl I photographed extensively last February. That little owl would stay put even as I fiddled with my tripod and camera less than 25ft away. That steadiness of course also makes it harder to find. So it is entirely possible that the same or another Saw-whet is roosting in the orchard again but has so far escaped detection. I hope my brother-in-law who found it, accidentally, in two different locations last year gets lucky again.
I should add that the orchard is deep inside private property and inaccessible to the public.

Manfred Kusch
South bank of Putah Creek
3 miles W of Davis

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