Call it Like it Is

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A tiny owl greeted us as we turned onto our property this weekend. Arriving in darkness, our car headlights momentarily lit up the surrounding forest to reveal the small nocturnal bird perched upon a low tree branch. We stopped the car of course and promptly took out our phones to capture as many pictures of the elusive little fellow as possible.

I don’t profess to know much about birds (Refer back to my post, Look – a Heron!) Every year at about this time, the Pelee Island Bird Observatory offers saw-whet owl banding sessions and every year I say, I’m going to partake. I have yet to do so. My mainland life always seems to get in the way. So my first thoughts upon seeing the little owl was that it must be a saw-whet. I based my assumption on the fact it was small and since this is the only saw-whet characteristic I know for certain, it seemed entirely plausible. Only now, upon closer inspection, I think the owl in question was probably a screech.

I’ve quite often heard owls on Pelee Island but don’t often get the chance to see them. Early on, the first sounds of hooting had me jumping out of bed in order to share my excitement with my small children at the time. Gently shaking them awake, I’d eagerly tell them to listen.

“Kids can you hear that?” I’d ask.

Their sleepy responses always paled in comparison to my own enthusiasm.

“It’s an owl!” I’d happily state the obvious.

Since those first audio encounters I’ve had the chance to hear many owls and even see a few over the past number of years. Last summer I was thrilled to discover the eerily alien trilling my son and I heard was in fact, Eastern screech owls communicating with each other. And then there was the time I was driving my daughter and her friends around the Island when a large grey owl swooped down off a tree just in front of our vehicle. Their cries of “What the heck was that?!” echoed my own thoughts exactly.

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4 thoughts on “Call it Like it Is

  1. Rose, I’d vote for your second guess as being the right one (not a bad photo for after dark!). I’ve seen a screech owl in small tree on the mainland right outside our house, and they are very small! And while I’ve heard them on Pelee, I’ve never seen one on the island (and I’ve never seen a sawhet). Check here for photos of both breeds: http://www.powdermillarc.org/highlights/unusual-birds/owls.aspx Sawhets have the saucer-disk eye facial structure and screech owls have pointed ear tufts sticking up from their heads. The source I generally use is Cornell Lab of Ornithology “All About Birds” (you can look each breed up by name).

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    1. Thanks Maureen and yes I have to agree. The saw-whets don’t have the pointy ears. I wasn’t expecting the screech to be so small though! Wish I had had a better camera with me at the time but still thrilling!

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