Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Bob Levy, a writer and a Central Park Regular whose new book, Club George, will be published next March, sent in a report yesterday about the two closely watched Ramble Screech Owls. An advanced look at his book jacket may be seen at the end of his report.

Location: Central Park
Subject: Red and gray morph Eastern Screech-Owls
Date: Monday January 16, 2006
Reporter: Bob Levy

I have been investigating reports that the gray morph Eastern Screech-Owl has been spotted alone in the “new” tree cavity. I have not witnessed that myself for a while but I have seen Gray Squirrels inside. This evening I found two Gray Squirrels poking their heads out of the hole. I think it reasonable to assume that the “gray thing” people report moving inside is one or both of these critters.

Meanwhile, the red morph is sometimes definitely seen at the “old” tree cavity but always alone. I heard the red morph make its tremolo call or trill nine times last Thursday before it flew out. Two others were there to hear the calls too, We hoped that they would be answered by the gray morph. They were not. After the red morph flew out a mournfully moaning Gray Squirrel nearby presented evidence that the owl had not gone far but we could not find it. When the squirrel stopped moaning and scampered away we assumed the owl had gone too.

I last saw the red morph Sunday evening again at the “old” cavity. This owl never ceases to surprise me. I was alone after a couple of other birders had succumbed to the intense cold as I should have but I stubbornly (i.e. obsessively) remained. When the red morph came out I expected it to fly off. Instead it perched two or three feet in front of its den and sat for several minutes twisting its head this way and that and doing a little preening before racing off. Even then it delivered another surprise. In my experience when it leaves it's "old" cavity the red morph typically heads west and occasionally south but this time it rushed due east. Go figure? I tried to follow but gave up after a futile search.

This evening a number of birders gathered to watch the Great Horned Owl (yes it is still in the Central Park) fly out and I asked several observers about the screech-owls. Neither had been seen today.