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Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Eastern Screech Owl (Petit-duc maculé)

18 December 2018

     December is turning out to be a very good month for owls for us, as we spotted the third species of the month, an Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio). What made this sighting even more agreeable than any routine view of an owl was the fact that it was a red morph bird, considerably in the minority here.


     Eastern Screech Owl is found in two principal colour morphs, grey and red, with grey more common in the northern part of its range and red predominant in the south. There is actually a third variant, a brown morph, but this is extremely uncommon and a phase I have never seen. Most of the birds discovered in southern Ontario are grey morph birds.
     The call of the Eastern Screech Owl has always carried a tinge of the melancholy. Thoreau called it "a most solemn graveyard ditty, the mutual consolation of suicide lovers!" That seems a touch extreme to me, but the call is nevertheless somewhat spooky to my ears, especially when heard walking home on a dark, rainy night.   
     Visually, this little owl is the epitome of cuteness.

    
     Eastern Screech Owls roost in cavities (natural holes or nest boxes) during the day and are therefore seldom seen. On a bright, sunny day, however, such as was the case today, they will often sit at the lip of their hole basking in the sun.


     Eastern Screech Owls favour hardwood or mixed forests, but have learned to adapt to parks, cemeteries and gardens and will even breed in residential neighbourhoods, where they are subject to intense predation by domestic cats unfortunately.
     "The screech owl enjoys a varied bill of fare including almost every class of animal life," wrote Arthur Cleveland Bent in 1938, which no doubt accounts for its relative abundance. Insects, rodents, small birds, and even small fish and crayfish form a regular part of the screech owl diet, depending on the season.

     

     A typical clutch for Eastern Screech Owl is four eggs, and all four young are often raised to fledging. Because the chicks all regurgitate pellets and defecate in the nest, the smell, accentuated by prey remains can be atrocious. The olfactory lobe in a screech owl is not well developed!
    On a crisp, clear winter's day, with the temperature around minus two, odour was not a concern!
    Recently our naturalists club, Waterloo Region Nature, had winter toques with the club logo made, and today all four of us (Franc, Jim, Miriam and me) all wore our new gear. Anyone seeing us might be forgiven for assuming that we were on a club outing!

Miriam

Jim
     In my book, any day with an owl, is a great day. The others felt the same and we all returned home delighted.



48 comments:

  1. Wow. I have never seen a screech owl but this one looked like he was just waiting for you to come along and take such a great photo. Last night a barred owl was outside the window entertaining me for a few minutes. I didn't like owls so much I would say he was keeping me awake.

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    1. Hi Erika: You are right that the owl seemed to be sitting there waiting for us, but it would be very easy to simply walk past without ever noticing it. The camouflage is very efficient.

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  2. Full of cuteness that owl.
    Nice photos of your both too.

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  3. Very beautiful owl, David. You love birds in the same way as I love flowers. It's nice to have hobbies!

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  4. Hi David.

    Wonderful Owl.
    Beautiful pictures

    Groettie from Patricia

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  5. Hello David!
    The Eastern Screech Owl is so beautiful! Such a cutie!
    Great captures! Well done Miriam!!!!
    Thank you for sharing David! Have a lovely day!
    Dimi...

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  6. Hola David, sin duda un gran día, maravilloso poder captar esta preciosa imagen. Estáis genial. Enhorabuena y abrazos para los dos. Felices fiestas.

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    1. It is true, Lola. The rest of the day was pretty quiet, but any day with an owl is a great day.

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  7. A snooze in the winter sun - not such a bad idea! They really are attractive little creatures, very like a child's cuddly toy. Coincidentally I spotted my local Tawny during the day yesterday, though in truth it was so gloomy that he may have thought it was nighttime. He wasn't as cute as your owl and I wasn't wearing such neat headgear either.

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    1. A Tawny Owl is a difficult bird to see. Consider yourself very lucky!

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  8. A truly gorgeous bird, David, especially the red morph! Today I have learned a new word - 'toque' - if only I thought I'd manage to remember it!

    Just got distracted part-way through writing this comment by a garden invasion of Redwing (13) - a garden record, with the previous maximum being 3. Not many berries left on the Rowan now!

    With my very best wishes to you and Miriam - - - Richard

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    1. Hi Richard: Yes, now that you mention it, I think that toque (pronounced took as in spook) is a Canadianism. Sure kept us nice and warm! All the very best to you and Lindsay for the season. Love from David and Miriam.

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  9. Preciosas imágenes amigo David, ese búho Chillido su plumaje y su estampa en la oquedad de ese árbol sosegada tomando el sol es esplendida, un reportaje encantador.
    Ese gorro de lana con la insignia del club queda muy bien y al propio tiempo llevas la cabeza protegida del frío Miriam lo luce de maravilla así como Jim.
    Un fuerte y caluroso abrazo amigos. Os deseo unas muy felices y entrañables fiestas navideñas en compañía de vuestros seres más queridos.
    Vuestro siempre amigo Juan desde Alicante-Esapaña

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    1. We need the protection, Juan. Jim and Miriam still have lots of hair, Franc and me not so much!

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  10. Hello David, love the beautiful Screech Owl. Wonderful series of photos and great post and info. Happy Birding. Enjoy your day and week ahead.

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  11. Wow David, vilken filur som sitter där så tryggt och verkar njuta av det fina vädret. En perfekt plats och en nybliven fågelskådare skulle aldrig upptäckt ugglan där i trädet. Jag blir så imponerad över den perfekta skyddsklädnaden, alla dessa små detaljer som du bjuder på i dina inlägg. För mig är det en upplevelse och en utökad kunskap om naturens bidrag till arters överlevnad, så oerhört fascinerande och ändå känner vi förmodligen till bara en bråkdel. Hoppas ni har gott om uråldriga träd och att det finns en förståelse om att de bör stå kvar. Här städas skogarna på allt, även gamla halvruttna träd forslas bort och blir energi i våra värmeverk.

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    1. The most important thing, Gunilla, is to know how to look and where to look.

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  12. A great owl to see. Nice head gear too.

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  13. Wow, how lucky can you get, I am very jealous. Hope all well there, from Diane in the UK

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  14. Splendid photographs of the owl David.
    You have nice equipment, you can take a nice photograph together.
    I get you Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Greetings Tinie

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  15. This owl is a beauty! Owls are a favorite of mine.

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  16. Hi David,
    Another wonderful find on your outing, with you all sporting your new Winter toques, at least it appears warmer than an earlier visit with -20.
    A really striking Owl that is obviously enjoying the Winter sun.
    All the best to you both and have a good Christmas, John

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  17. A Screech Owl was the first non UK Owl I ever heard about when I was child (thanks to a Hardy Boys book!), it's one of those birds I would love to see :)

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  18. Beaautiful Screech Owl that you took, I love it.

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  19. Beauty, true beauty! I can't take my eyes away from this beautiful Eastern Screech Owl. David, you were so lucky to find this owl. Of course, she slept all the time but even see the sleeping owl is such a great joy.

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  20. The owl pictures are remarkable. Seeing an owl ...any owl ... would definitely make my day! Son-in-law and daughter had a family of owls in their black walnut tree a couple of years ago. They didn’t return last year, though I don’t think the lkids” minded too much because the noise kept me hem awake. And they have to work! ...I like the toques,..a word I only recently learned from Louise Penney’s novels (set in Quebec).

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    1. I think Miriam has read just about everything Louise Penney has ever written.

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  21. Hello David. Owls are so interesting and fascinating birds. Wonderful photos. Yours toques looks great!

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  22. What a sweet-looking little owl! And I agree, any day with an owl is a great day!

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  23. Hola David.

    Me encantan los búhos, lechuzas y poder observar una especie que no podemos ver en Europa siempre es una gozada.

    Un abrazo y FELIZ NAVIDAD y te deseo un estupendo AÑO NUEVO 2019.

    Rafa.

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  24. Hi David!!!..
    Very beautiful pics .. My best wishes for these holidays ..


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  25. Hi David. It's very noticeable that your owl has a very foxy colouration. The colours remind me of a Wood Thrush. I wonder if you chanced upon this individual or if this is a regular location? Whatever, it was a very good spot when for the most part the Average Joe would would walk past the motionless and see nothing. Our Little Owls have the same habit of appearing during very cold conditions when feeding is more difficult.

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    1. Good morning Phil: It is the first time I have seen this bird there, but it is apparently known to others. Apparently a bird has been in this vicinity for a couple of years now.

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  26. Forgot this

    https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/rare-bird-wows-salmon-arm-birders

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    1. I can only say that I am sorry not to be on the west coast right now! Fieldfare and Redwing are two common birds that I have never seen. Why don't you host a Christmas party at your house and I will fly over and you can show me one there?

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  27. Maravilhosa!

    Eu ainda aguardo um encontro com uma coruja.

    Boas Festas!

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  28. Hi David,
    marvellous you've seen so many different owls lately.
    This one looks very nice; its colors blend very good with the tree.
    I think it's a rather tiny one?

    Berst regards, Corrie

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    1. Yes, it is quite small, Corrie - and absolutely captivating!

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  29. Hi David,
    I can imagine, that you all returned home delighted. And I totally agree that "any day with an owl, is a great day"! They are beautiful, and this little one is spectacular! I saw in Greece the Otus scops twice, I will never forget that moment!
    Best regards,
    Maria

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  30. What a see sweet owl resting in the natural holes!!
    A cute bird in your header! Beautiful fluffy feather.
    Have a wonderful day.

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  31. Such a beautiful owl, I loved seeing the photographs.

    All the best Jan

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  32. Yes, you should call December the Month of the Owl! I love their natural camouflage -- you guys are excellent spotters!

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  33. i could not agree more!! a wonderful series!!

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  34. Beautiful David, really beautiful!
    As you know I love many owls so I am very happy with these beautiful pictures. How fortunate that you had this beautiful encounter. I am very happy with these photos.

    Kind regards, Helma xx

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  35. Hermosa lechucita, me gusta verlas cuando se refugian en los huecos de los troncos

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  36. Simply awesome shots! I rarely ever get to see an owl. Lucky you!

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  37. Que maravilla el Megascops asio, enhorabuena por la observación y por las fotos, son fantásticas!!!

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