Arlene Koziol saw him"out of the corner of her eye", while pontooning in the late afternoon on this beautiful Sunday, and "you can see that he was looking right at" her!
Linda Deith captured on video how the Barred Owlets in Bill's Woods are practicing their flying skills–a precarious yet necessary part of growing up.
The Demands of Parenthood: Observations of a Barred Owl Family in The Preserve
A family of Barred Owls, Strix varia, are living in a large natural cavity in a dead oak tree snag in the UW Lakeshore Nature Preserve. The first time that I saw the Barred Owl family, there were three owlets in the nest cavity. One parent was keeping watch in a nearby tree, while the other parent was out hunting for food. Within the next few days, the owls had “branched”. The owlets were able to climb the trees using their beaks and talons. In branching, the owlet grabs the bark with its beak and walks with it’s feet up the trunk while flapping it’s wings. The owlets practiced branching in the nest by holding on to the sides of the cavity with their beaks and talons, flapping their wings vigorously. The larger and stronger of the owlets went several trees away from the nest, while the smallest owl with the most down stayed closer to home. Yesterday when I observed them again I discovered there are four Barred Owlets!!!
Here is the link to my pictures
When the owlets were awake, they would make frequent begging sounds which can be described as a squeaky hiss. The guardian parent would periodically reply with hissing sound. Click on this link and go to Juvenile Sound to hear the begging. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Barred_Owl/sounds
I lucky enough to see about a dozen feedings. Prey that was captured were voles and fish. The hunting parent would bring the prey to the guardian parent. Next the parent would bring the whole feeding to the owlet, present it and rub the prey on the owlet’s face. I wonder what was the reason for this behavior? Owls locate their prey by their their highly advanced vision and superb hearing, so it was not to teach the owlet about smell. The parent brought the prey to another branch for shredding into little pieces that an owlet could easily gulp down. One time, the parent decided to eat the whole vole in a few gulps. After eating, the owls would clean their bills by rubbing them on a tree branch. My husband Jeff and I watched a parent owl fly down to the University Bay Marsh, bringing back fish to feed the young. Jeff saw the parent perched on a tree about 8 feet above the ground overlooking the marsh. I have alway thought of Ospreys and wading birds catching fish in University Bay, not owls!
The vigilant parent guardian also has the job of protecting the owlets against other animals and predators. I saw songbirds, woodpeckers and squirrels mob them, which is called non-predatory interspecific interaction. When the squirrels were attacking an owlet, the baby flapped it’s wings and hissed. The parent dive bombed the squirrels until they retreated. The Barred Owl’s main predators are other owls and hawks, as well as raccoons and weasels.
Another behavior observed was the parent preening an owlet. I do not know if the parent was caring for the feathers an/or removing parasites.
Barred Owls are crepuscular and nocturnal hunters, so they sleep a lot during the day. They are beautifully camouflaged while they remaining motionless perched or laying down on the branches.
Barred Owls are opportunistic predators that like to live in large, mature forests with both evergreen and deciduous trees near water. This habitat supports a diversity of prey and has large trees for nesting cavities. The UW Lakeshore Preserve provides just the perfect habitat for Barred Owls. The conservation of the UW Lakeshore Nature Preserve and Yahara Lakes watershed in these times is more important than ever,
Thanks to Alenka Weinhold and Glenda Denniston for sharing the Barred Owl family with me.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Birds of North America, Barred Owl, Kurt M. Mazur and Paul C. James
Spring - a glorious time for birds and birders. Here are a few of the smaller-sized birds, at times better heard than seen. Enjoy these photos by Mike Bailey. A large number of Fox Sparrows had a good-sized area cleared out in Bill's Woods as they foraged. Many were singing. A Brown Thrasher was taking a break in Second Point Woods near one of the gullies that had running water from snow melt. Swamp Sparrows were foraging in the muck at the edge of University Bay. Yellow-rumped Warblers were mingling with the Swamp Sparrows. Dark-eyed Juncos were singing.
Avid birder Roma Lenehan reports "Tonight (Saturday) there were at least two (maybe three) Woodcocks displaying in/over the prairie at around 8:30 PM. One sounded like it was toward the lake from the Purple Martin house (it sounded quite close) and another one (distant) sounded like it was near the original prairie toward the north. There may have been a third distant bird near the orchard. At least two flew multiple times (less than 10 but more than 5 times) and "peented" persistently (between flights). The close one was still peenting when I left, but there had been no flight for a while. This was a good night because it was warm and calm. They also like clear nights and a moon.
At about the start of April a huge number of these tiny fluff balls of beauty flooded the area. Dozens of Golden-crowned kinglets ended up in the woods around the Lakeshore Preserve where Mike Bailey photographed them from all possible angles. After a week, the numbers were less, but many are still scattered about in the woods. These photos showcase their stunning coloring.
During migration, kinglets frequently join other songbirds, such as warblers. The last photo in the sequence shows one of the first Yellow-rumped warblers in the area. The tiniest of birds, kinglets winter throughout much of the continent often in dense conifers which provide some protection in cold climates. They tend to breed in the northern forests. They are hard to spot, as they flit about among the branches, often hanging upside down to glean insects.
Even if the temperatures don't tell us so, the birds know that spring is coming. Many have arrived either to stay, like the cranes, or are on they way further north, waiting out the fierce winds of the day, this March 31. These winds are finally breaking up the ice on Lake Mendota, expanding the feeding grounds on the bay for the many ducks on their way further north. On March 30, you couldn't row a boat yet from Picnic Point to Maple Bluff, which is the official indicator for the Lake Mendota opening. But tomorrow, it won't be an April Fools joke if you boast you will kayak across the lake. This is the time to enjoy the many birds. An hour's walk easily produces over 30 bird species. Come and see yourself. And enjoy the photos of this month's by Mike Bailey who is sharing his stunning eBird posts with us. Thank you Mike!!
For the birds, spring is coming. They arriving at the preserve, scouting out the scene or intending to pass through. Birders are out in droves as well, and Mike Bailey is sharing with us what he saw and captured with his camera. This photos are also posted on eBird, at the Lakeshore Nature Preserve.
Mike Bailey, along with many other birders, has enjoyed watching our winter residents and early arrivals during this warm January with little snow on the ground. He has captured some of them for us in these close ups. A Northern Cardinal found a warm spot in the sun, with a bit of snow still covering his perching branch. The first White-crowned sparrow came early this year and found bare ground. All photos copyright Mike Bailey.
I'm passionate about the Preserve. Gisela Kutzbach and contributors