Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hidden in Plain Sight

For several years, I’ve had my eye on a big knothole in one of the oak trees that arch over our stream. Its east-facing opening has always seemed the perfect roosting spot for a Screech Owl. Several times a week I glance over to see if just once a little feathered body might fill the space. One day a gray form caught my eye, but it was only one of our fat squirrels.

Several days ago, I noticed Blue Jays and Tufted Titmice “mobbing” the hole – a sure sign that an owl was in there. I waited and watched, but saw nothing.

This morning, my waiting and my routine glance out to the oak tree were finally rewarded.

Look closely. See it?

This is a grey phase Eastern Screech Owl. (It also occurs in a red phase, which is a lovely russet color.) You’ve probably heard one calling and not known what it was. The owl hunts at night, generally using a low branch as a site from which to hunt for small rodents and large insects. During the day it roosts, or sleeps, often in a cavity such as this hole. (This is just one reason why it is important to preserve mature, dead, and dying trees.) The owl's feathers, which look like mature tree bark, provide excellent concealment.

While I watched and snapped these photos with my cell phone (taken through the binoculars), the Blue Jays, Titmice, and Black-Capped Chickadees noticed the owl too, and raised a commotion. I could hear all their alarm calls as they fluttered around the hole, trying to frighten off the owl. A Hermit Thrush, a Carolina Wren, and a handful of Dark-eyed Juncos joined the fray.

The owl dropped back into the hole and out of sight.

After the small birds lost interest and went back to the feeding stations, the owl popped back up again and snoozed in the pale winter sun.

To read more about the birds in my backyard, and to see more pictures:http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Birds%20in%20my%20Backyard


  1. Wow! that little owl really blends in! I read a book about finding owls that said to check all those knotholes during the winter for screech owls. I finally found a screech owl in one just as you did.

  2. Welcome, Larry! This blog covers many topics other than birding, but all my bird posts are gathered under the subject headins "Birds in My Backyard" and "Birds Out and About" -- scroll down to see the topic list.


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