Saw-whet musings etc…

6 04 2011

Saw-whet Owl - Luke Tiller

It was a slow day at the hawkwatch, after a bright warm start the clouds settled in, the air cooled and it robbed me of any afternoon flight. I decided to cut my losses and head home and save my energy for tomorrow. Still it was pretty early in the day, so I decided to go and have a wander around some local spots and see what, if anything, I could add to my Big Green Big Year list (here).

Over at the hawkwatch I had managed to pick up my first Blue-winged Teal of the season (about 4 drakes and two hens) and I thought I might be able to pick up others on the Manitou Beach Road side of the bay.  No joy, and I still haven’t even managed to get Green-winged out this side of the bay yet either – perhaps Teal will be my bogey duck? The hike down to Breakers could have been a complete wash were it not for happening upon a Caspian Tern that was cruising up the creek. Still with that and the Red-throated Loon from Ontario Beach Rd I am at least steadily accumulating for the season, and I am up to Two Fat Ladies as they say in bingo (88).

As I was right there already, I decided it was at least worth a little wander through Owl Woods to see what I could find there. A Long-eared would be nice – I think it’s time to give up on the dreams of finding a Boreal 😉 No Long-eareds today but Saw-whets were again easy to find. I tried to get a couple of digiscoped shots with my recently returned Swarovski Scope, not exactly Nat Geo material but a visual memory of the occasion at least.

I have noticed that things have gotten kind of heated about some of the goings on at Owl Woods recently and it was nice to see that BBRR have posted some guidelines about both looking for and photographing owls. Out of interest he ABA birding ethics guidelines can be found here (note the constant reference to the best interests of the bird!) I spend most of my year in Connecticut, and the listserve there has outright banned the posting of nocturnal owl sightings due to questionable birder and photographer behavior. It leads to something of difficult situation whereby beginners who are not very experienced at looking for owls get frustrated by the fact that they don’t  get them reported. Anyway, it makes me more aware of how lucky local birders are up here in Rochester that these birds get posted to the listserve.

That said I don’t believe there is a right to know about bird sightings and the more thoughtless behavior that birders observe at Owl Woods, the less likely I imagine they are to share their sightings. Although it can be difficult, I think it’s really incumbent on people to say something (politely) if they see things that they believe are overstepping the mark (moving or even removing branches for better shots of the birds is pretty obviously not on!). It’s possible that people just aren’t aware of the stresses they are placing on the birds, so if you say something do think carefully about how to say it tactfully.


Saw-whet Owl - Luke Tiller

Today I managed to fairly easily find two Saw-whets at the woods. In both of these shots I was digiscoping the birds from a fair distance, but as you can see they are aware of my presence. Once I found them I backed off to a distance to let them settle back down and even avoided going to search through another set of trees, as I would have had to squeeze past one of these birds. I took a couple of shots and was out of their vicinity within a minute or two. It’s always such a great experience to see an owl, but I strongly believe it’s incumbent on us to make sure that we don’t disturb them while we enjoy them.  Owl Woods is a really magical place, I hope it stays that way and that people continue to feel comfortable sharing their sightings from these amazingly productive little woods.

Just because my owl pictures are so amateur, I thought I’d share one my friend AJ took in Westport CT which he loaned me for my blog before (here). He actually didn’t like this shot very much – shows you how good his best ones are!!!! You can find more of his owl (and other bird) pictures from Sherwood Island in the links on the side of the page. You can also read about the time I went owl banding (here) and see some of the great sketches my friend Birdspot produced from the trip (here).



2 responses

28 10 2012
Frame To Frame (@FrameToFrameBJ)

Hi there. Just reading your posting regarding the Northern Saw-Whet Owl. Good work at finding the owl in that thick tree! I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and this past Friday, my wife and I came upon an adult Saw-Whet Owl out in the bush. This was the first time as birders that we had ever seen a Saw-Whet Owl. Fortunately, we had our camera with us and got some good pictures and video. We have posted them for anyone interested at:

29 10 2012


Great post, pictures and videos. I love finding these birds and up along Lake Ontario in spring it’s pretty easy to as well.

Thanks for sharing – Luke

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