Monday, January 30, 2006

An intriguing report

Bob Levy writes:

Central Park “owling” January 29, 2006

This mostly rainy Sunday afternoon was not the best for my bird-watching excursion in Central Park. The most notable sighting was of a lone Gray Catbird at the dock on Turtle Pond. This bird has been here for weeks feeding on the shriveled berries on a same shrub. It made a few soft calls today. I hoped one of its own kind might answer but there was no reply.

I could not find the Great Horned Owl. The red morph Eastern Screech-Owl was in the “old” cavity. There was no sign of its mate.

This was not one of my more interesting walks until I observed some intriguing activity by the cohabitating gray morph Eastern Screech-Owls. [These are the ones I refer to as the West Drive Screech-owls MW] I arrived at their abode well after sundown and assumed they had already flown out but I decided to wait around anyway hoping they had not exited. I have been wondering if these two are already breeding and tonight sat on a bench thinking about the possibility of seeing one of the pair coming back to the cavity with prey to feed the other inside sitting on a nest. Would you believe that at that moment, (it was 5:35 PM) one owl flew over my head, shot directly into the opening of the cavity and disappeared inside. What a delightful coincidence.

I kept on waiting to see what might happen next. My expectation was that one owl would fly out to continue hunting. Wrong. At 6:02 PM a second owl came out of the shrubs behind me, went to the tree and landed on the rim of the opening. It bent over and leaned inside. With its back to me I could not see what it was doing but it soon turned to face me. It sat in the opening for a while longer but then shot down to the ground where I lost track of it. I stayed an additional fifteen minutes but when the rain started to fall again I gave up my vigil.

I did not see if either owl had carried anything to the tree cavity but I suspect that they did. I believe this species builds their nest with the “leftovers” (i.e. Fur, skin, etc.) of prey. It’s a good bet that I what I had been watching was the collection and delivery of building materials, so to speak. That is just an educated guess, of course, but I think it’s a good one.