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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Arb Notes: Catch some owls in the Arb

<eezing out—warmer than it’s been in a couple weeks but wet, a penetrating cold. It’s almost dusk, and as I shift from leg to leg I hear again the low, sonorous call. We gaze out into the trees, hoping for a glimpse of the bird among the tangle of gray branches and trunks. Finally, as we’re about to head back to the cars, a lone Great Horned Owl swoops down through the underbrush. We hold our breath, and a second one joins the first, soaring together to the edge of the stand of trees and out of our line of sight.

Last week, we were lucky enough to have local bird expert Gene Bauer visit us to talk about owls in the Arb, and take us to the cemetery across from the Upper arb to try to catch a glimpse of a Great Horned he’d been hearing. Owls are notoriously difficult to spot, but looking for owls is a great way to get out in the arb during the winter. Gene offered a number of suggestions for owl-spotting. Take a walk some evening with a few friends (be sure to be quiet) and listen for the distinctive hoot of a Great Horned, Barred or Saw-whet Owl. Here are some identifying features to help you out if you’re lucky enough to see one of these feathered creatures:
Barred Owl

• Barred owls are about 18” tall.
• Look for black eyes and a yellow bill, with vertical brown barring on the chest.
• Barred owls like mature hardwood forests, so head out to the Lower Arb.
• Barred owls have a distinctive call, which supposedly sounds like, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?”
Great Horned Owl
• Great Horned owls are about the same size as Barred owls, but have a dark beak and yellow eyes.
• Look for the distinctive tufts on a Great Horned’s head. These tufts are thought to help Great Horned owls identify each other in the dark—they make for an easily identifiable silhouette.
Eastern Screech Owl
• Eastern Screech owls are much smaller—only about 8” tall.
• These owls are non-migratory—they’re here year round, and are frequently seen around town and on campus!
So get out there a-owling! Look for trees trunks stained white with owl poop, and look for pellets, and listen—soon you’ll be watching a Saw-whet nestled in a spruce tree or listening to the call of a Barred owl in the twilight…

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