According to my best current information, there have been six species of owls recorded on the ol’ Laben farm. I have personally seen or heard Snowy, Barn, Great Horned, and Eastern Screech Owls; my brother, who now lives in my grandfather’s old house, has also seen Barred, to no one’s surprise. (What is surprising is no Long-eared, although my comedian siblings reported ‘long-tongued’ and ‘long-legged’ owls when I asked; I would also like to see Short-eared on the property someday, since we have still got enough grasslands to support Northern Harrier.)
If you count, that is five. While I was home for Christmas, another brother came in from a smoke break and reported that he’d heard a call he didn’t recognize; using the ever-helpful Cornell Lab of O website, we quickly zeroed in on the tooting call of the Northern Saw-what Owl. This common but seldom-seen little owl is an expert at evading notice, so I was excited by the tip. We scanned outside briefly in the dark, but had no luck even when I briefly played a recording on my phone.
In the morning, my mother told me that she, too, had heard the mystery owl earlier the same evening. I decided to go out and poke around the hedge of dense evergreens that separate my parents’ yard from the neighbors; it looked like a promising spot, comparable to the other (highly secret!) locations where I’ve seen Saw-whets in the past. Of course, like the man says, past performance is no guarantee of future results. I did not find an owl of any kind. I did find a great many droppings, though, and heaps of feathers from a small and obviously eaten bird… and as my lovely photo above shows, a few owl pellets as well.
Obviously this is not good enough for listing, but I think it’s fair to say that the Olde Homestead is playing host to some kind of small, invisible owl this holiday season.