Long-eared Owls have long eluded me. Two winters ago Will found some roosting at Five Rivers, one of my favorite local birding spots, while I was in California. When I came home I scoured Five Rivers in the freezing cold and snow three times and never found a single owl but later found out that they had all been killed and eaten by a Great Horned Owl or Northern Goshawk before I had even gone looking. Of course, no one had bothered to post anything on the local listservs about the carcasses found and recovered for examination so I was in the dark when I was out searching.
But the birds that got eaten at Five Rivers were not my only miss on Long-eared Owls. This past winter when Daisy and I were exploring southern California with visits to such wondrous places as Joshua Tree National Park and the Salton Sea we stopped at the Tamarisk Campground of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, a well-known winter roosting spot for Long-eared Owls. We split up, me to look for owls and Daisy to just appreciate the landscape. I found owl pellets and fur from a recent owl victim but no owls. When I got back to where Daisy was waiting she told me about a “big bird” that had erupted from the trees and flown off, not to be seen again. She knew, of course, that it was a Long-eared Owl. I might not have felt so bad at missing it if I hadn’t struck out on Burrowing Owls as well when whipping winds drove them into cover while we were exploring the Salton Sea.
So this past March when I tried for Long-eared Owls at Croton Point Park in Westchester County, NY, I wasn’t terribly surprised that they had just left their winter roost within a couple of days, as once again I found pellets but no owls.
This all leads us up to yesterday, Wednesday, the twelfth of December, 2007, when I would finally break the curse of the Long-eared Owl. I have saved a couple of personal and vacation days and spent one yesterday just to see Long-eared Owls. I woke up early, drove the two hours to Croton Point Park, parked at the same grove of evergreens, and anticlimactically found an owl within five minutes. Then I drove home.
I didn’t get any pictures because the owl was obscured by branches and high up in its roosting tree. The look wasn’t even all that good. But the curse is broken and I’m up to 314 birds for the year in the state. If you want to see good pictures of Long-eared Owls, go here. That is all.