I spend a fair amount of time in the woods, but my personal interactions with owls is pretty limited, I’m sorry to report.
I’ve had a few answer my own owl call — “Who cooks for you?” is the vocalization I’ve used — while turkey hunting, but in those cases, I’ve really been trying to get talkative wild turkeys to reply and let me know where they’re hiding.
Sometimes I’ll hear a distant hoot that I assume is an owl. And one time, while driving on a back road in the town of Monroe at night, I had a snowy owl swoop down and barely miss hitting my car while it was apparently trying to grab a midnight snack from the roadside.
I love seeing owl photos. They’re really cool birds, and though they seem supernaturally calm, they are among the most skilled predators you’ll find anywhere.
Today’s Bangor Daily News reader submission comes from Pamela and Bryan Wells, and if you’re an owl fan, I bet you’ll love this video, which features a barred owl sitting on a branch in Milford.
Just watching an owl do what an owl does — in this case, calmly perch on a branch, waiting for a meal to walk by — is pretty cool. But if you’re looking for some action, you can advance to about 1 minute, 35 seconds into the video and watch the bird take wing.
I’ve never seen an owl fly past when I’ve been in the woods, but some who have tell me that they make virtually no noise when they’re flying. Because of that, when they show up it can be a startling experience, both for humans and whatever little critters they’re trying to prey on.
Our freelance bird expert, Bob Duchesne, said Milford is full of barred owls, especially out on County Road abutting Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.
As I’m not an owl expert, I asked Duchesne to share some of his wisdom, and he was happy to share a few identification tips that will prove handy.
“There are three common owls in Maine. Great horned owls are big and have ear tufts, unlike this one. Saw-whet owls are tiny. Barred owls are the ones seen most often,” Duchesne said. “When snow covers the ground, concealing mice, the barreds are likely to hunt in daylight a little more. They’ll just sit and watch for something to move … making them easy to video. They don’t want to sit out there, too long though. Crows will start to harass them, and great horned owls will eat them.”
Another ID tip: Keep your eyes on an owl’s eyes.
“Note that barred owls have black eyes. All the other owls that could be in Maine, including the rare ones, have yellow eyes,” Duchesne said. “[The] rare ones include short-eared, long-eared, snowy and great gray.”
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