Just maybe…nah

Posted August 30th, 2010 by kcorliss. Comments (2).

Saturday evening I rode along with a fellow West Fargoan on a road trip to Petersburg, ND. I’ll grant you this little burg west of Grand Forks is not your typical weekend destination. But we had every reason to be there. Word was out there were was a barn owl family in town.

Yes, just 10 days after I had cast doubt upon a recent poster to the ND birders’ listserv claiming a barn owl, a real barn owl was photographed a couple counties away. (I may have to eat my previous words but I doubt it).

Several folks from the Grand Forks bird club were there by the time we rolled into town. They’d all seen the birds. But for whatever reason, it couldn’t be found at the moment. Well, 90 minutes of wandering the neighborhood later, someone refound a roosting adult. So we hustled over to see it.

Here’s the best shot I got:

I suspect this bird is a female but I’m not positive. Experts say the gals have more breast spots as this one shows.

It was a new state bird for me and a lifer for Dean.

We stayed until sunset to watch the bird fly. In the minutes leading up to leaving the bird got fidgety, with wing stretching, some leaning, opening its eyes more–all a presage for the night flight. When some internal determination was made telling the bird it was dark enough, it took off on slow methodical wing beats. Voles and mice beware!

Soon enough it was joined by a partner (the other adult I presume) and the birds could be seen off-and-on in an area the townfolk had seen them every night for weeks. They told us as many as five barn owls had been counted. I presume the other three were juveniles. Might they have already dispersed? I don’t know.

I will continue to monitor the local area for barn owls. In the years I’ve been looking for them, I’ve seen nothing. But now I will look with more vigor.

2 Responses to “Just maybe…nah”

  1. Nancy Drew

    Hi there Keith,
    I am the poster you doubted on the Listserv. I don’t blame you as no one but me and visiting non-birding friends have heard the owls.
    However I still do believe we have them as nothing really sounds like a barn owl. Even the young of the great horned do not have that screech that sounds like something is being killed.
    To me it is diagnostic.
    I will have to go out and get a picture one of these years that I haven’t just had a kidney transplant.

    I really enjoy your blog and appreciate the help the listserv gives to those of us who are not the worlds best birders.

    • kcorliss

      Hey Nancy,
      Thanks for writing. Your post was intriguing to be sure. But after chasing “ghosts” so many times the past few years, I’ve come to more finely filter reports and what birds I will chase (you can’t imagine the reports I receive from well-meaning folks who end up not only being wrong, but very wrong). You very well may have barn owls, I don’t know. It’s just that my radar went up when you mentioned they’ve been there for years. That does’t jive with our experience with barn owls in North Dakota, which tend to be ephemeral moments and very rarely nest.

      That said, let me just ask, are the birds still there? If so, do you think I could come up sometime and check?