Early Sunday morning I was out and about at Jones Beach State Park hoping to track down the hordes of crossbills that I had seen on Saturday for some more photographic fun. But I was distracted by the harsh cawing of a murder of American Crows. It sounded like they were mobbing something and when crows are mobbing something you want to see what it is because they often harass owls and who doesn’t like to see owls? Steve Schellenger, who I had run into and was birding with, and I made our way through some scrub until we could see the crows and they definitely had something because they were dive-bombing it and sitting above it and cawing their heads off. But we couldn’t get a look at what they were mobbing because it was down deep in a thick bush.
Finally the bird they were mobbing took off but we only got very lousy looks as it stayed behind a brush line as it flew but we were sure we had an owl. It landed again several hundred yards distant and the crows continued to mob it so we made our way over hoping for a better look. Before we could get close enough to even see the bird the crows drove it to flight again. With the light at my back and the bird going away I managed to get these shots.
Figuring we got as good a look as we were going to get we made our way back towards the pines to continue our search for crossbills. Little did we know that the crows had continued to pursue the owl in a circular pattern and suddenly the beast was flying almost directly at us until it put up in a big bush not twenty yards away but with the sun behind it. It quickly realized we were there and took off again, away from us, allowing me to nab the following shot and a couple more like it.
Now, it must be noted at this point that we hadn’t looked too carefully at my photos and were under the illusion that we had been seeing crows chasing a Short-eared Owl. So when we ran into Seth Ausubel and he told us he had seen the crows chasing a Great Horned Owl we were very confused. (None of us really knew how similar the underwing pattern of the Great Horned Owl is to that of a Short-eared Owl, probably because we never get to see Great Horned Owls flying around in daylight.)
Fortunately, the owl made another appearance, still being harassed by crows, and soon realized that there was just the Great Horned Owl being harassed and not two different murders of crows each pursuing its own owl.
The poor owl could get no relief and I later heard from Sean Sime, who was diligently scanning the skies over West End 2 for his New York Cave Swallow, that it was chased way out into what remains of the dunes over by Jones Inlet, where a Northern Harrier joined the crows in harassing it.
Great Horned Owls are pretty tough but when they are stuck in the open in daylight and constantly harried by crows you can’t help but feel a little sorry for them.
Any chance the crows chased it all the way East across the Atlantic to … say … Germany?
Thanks for sharing! I wonder if this is the reason a huge murder of crows has taken up residence by the woods/ball park near my Long Island home recently. We have had a resident Great Horned Owl/owls in the woods here since (that I know of) 2001. One night I witnessed two dogs unattended crossing the street into the woods so I figured I’d try and get a hold of them so I can return them to their family. As I pulled into the parking lot adjacent to the woods I startled (or, more correctly, was startled by) a Great Horned Owl that was on the grass (likely hunting). It flew up across my windshield- of which the wings spanned completely, and perched up top a tree, it literally looked like it was perched on the tippy top! Since then I’ve had a great appreciation and love of these magnificent creatures and have learned to recognize that the early morning “who who who”s I hear are indeed these animals, which prior I didn’t believe to exist on Long Island. I’ve even been lucky enough to have one answer a whoing owl call attempt with their own at sunset while walking my dog, unfortunately I haven’t since been able to locate the owl for a visual.
Apparently chased in to Fargo ND where the owl is being harassed by crows as we speak
I live in Seattle. One morning I stepped out of my house and heard what sounded like a hundred crows. Actually, it was about twenty or more and they were mobbing a bald eagle. The eagle was flying very low and it was trying to escape all these crows. They were harassing it to the point you could tell it wanted to be anywhere else. I have never seen anything like it.
We live in simi valley california and have several hawks but when we hear the crows making a lot of noise we know it is mobbing the hawks. He have aeen it several times…:(