Friday, March 03, 2006

Owl virtuoso

ESO in "new" cavity 3/1/06
photo by Lloyd Spitalnik

Date: March 1, 2006
Location: Central Park
Subject: Central Park Owling/Red Morph Singing Virtuoso
Reporter: Bob Levy

Gabriel and I went looking for the red morph Eastern Screech-Owl this evening. It was not in its “old” tree cavity so went to look at the “new” one where it had previously cohabitated with a gray morph. A third birder we did not know joined us. Gabriel thought he saw some movement inside the hole. We stared at it in silence for several minutes: no owl showed itself. Gabriel assumed we were not going to see the red morph and pointed out that we would have to hurry if we hoped to watch the gray morphs’ fly out. As I turned toward him to express my agreement, out of the corner of my eye it was my turn to see movement inside the cavity. We three stared at the cavity for several more minutes: still no owl. We began to think either the movement had been made by a Gray Squirrel or our over active imaginations. Gabriel and the other birder left. I decided to stay hoping to confirm whether there was any thing at all inside the hole. At 6:07 PM the red morph Eastern Screech-Owl appeared in the opening of the tree: Yes!

At 6:11 the owl began singing its tremolo song for a total of nine times from its position on the rim of the cavity. I felt satisfaction seeing and hearing this and then got to watch the owl fly out at 6: 19 PM. It flew at a sharp angle toward the ground landing only a short distance from the tree. I lost sight of it but waited thinking I might find it again if it moved. I did not see the owl but I certainly heard it. After listening to an additional twenty tremolo songs I thought the vocal performance was over and I started walking away. Another chorus of the song stopped me in my tracks. After listening to ten more tremolos I again assumed the show was over and I started to leave but another tremolo stopped me again. After hearing number forty-four (nine from inside the tree cavity and thirty-five from outside) I decided it was really time to leave but I do not know if the red morph thought it was time to quit. It might have kept on singing long after I was gone.