Jan 16
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I sometimes question my decision to live and work within the boundaries of a large city.

The need for daily interaction with nature is inescapable for me, and that can be tough in a suburban setting.

That is why I love this time of year when one of my most spine tingling interactions with nature often occurs right outside the window of my home.

It happened last night as I was nodding off into that twilight zone between dreams and reality. Just outside the bedroom window, filtering down from the hillside trees…whooo…whoo-hoo….who..who. Great Horned Owls!

Oh Man! I love it!

I am not sure why this pair has chosen my trees from which to declare their bond to each other, but I hope they are as stirred by each others calls as I am by theirs.

Great Horned Owls will begin nesting in my area in the next few weeks. Courtship is in full swing and apparently I am lucky enough to have a box seat for their musical duet.

Odds are good that you too have a pair of these large and long-lived owls living nearby. Able to thrive in virtually any habitat found in the United States, Canada and Mexico, they are equally at home in wilderness or suburban settings.

So listen as you go to sleep, or bundle up and go outside, you too may be touched by the magical call of your own neighbor…the Great Horned Owl.

And if you are, please consider sharing your experience here.

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To help learn the call of the Great Horned Owl, visit allaboutbirds.org to hear a great audio clip.

Aug 03
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Summer is a popular time for outdoor family reunions, camping trips or sleep away camp for the kids. However, much of the fun in hiking and spending time outside is having encounters with animals in their natural environment.

“There are several easy things campers and hikers can do to get the most out of their outdoor experience,” said Jim Carpenter, CEO and founder of Wild Birds Unlimited. “Some tips are fairly intuitive, such as being quiet on the trail, so as not to scare away animals you are hoping to view. Other tips are very important, but less well known, such as the fact that feathers and nests are all federally protected and not to be collected.”

Carpenter offers the following 10 camping/outdoor tips to make sure people can observe the most wildlife:

1. Bring binoculars for kids and adults.
2. Turn binoculars into a magnifying glass by reversing the end you look through; it works great for looking closely at flowers, butterflies, insects and more.
3. Watch for birds actively feeding early in the morning.
4. Late-risers can still see birds but may have to be more observant as the birds sing less often as the morning progresses.
5. At night, listen for owls calling to each other.
6. Listen for Great Horned Owls calling a five-note hoot that can be interpreted as “who’s awake, me too.”
7. Listen for nighthawks in the evening sky—a nighthawk’s call sounds like a “pee-ernt.”
8. Set out a hummingbird feeder while camping and watch to see who shows up to investigate—don’t use a yellow feeder, though, as you’ll probably attract bees, not birds. Hummingbirds like the color red.
9. Use the simple ratio of ¼ cup of sugar to one cup of water (a one-to-four ratio) for hummingbird nectar.
10. Bird and other wildlife identification guides show you how to look for wildlife; what kinds of behaviors to look for; and what habitats to look in to be able to identify what you see.

Jan 04
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Screech Owl

Barred Owl

Winter nights are such a wonderful time to walk in the woods. It is so peacefully quiet as if everything is asleep.

Then you hear it. Soft, deep calls. An owl is awake defending territory or courting its mate.

Winter is a perfect time to search for owls. Since there are no leaves on the trees, owls are easy to see and their calls carry quite far.

Great Horned Owls call with a soft, deep “Who’s Awake? Me too.” The males call out with the occasional reply by their mate.

Barred Owls can be energetic with their “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” But don’t be fooled. They also do a deep, drawn-out call that sounds like a descending “whooo-awww” or a cacophony of calls that can sound like monkeys.

Eastern Screech-Owls can be eerie with their soft, descending whinny call, kind of a like a whinnying horse. I love to hear their sustained tremolo call that seems to go on and on without a breath.

The Western Screech-Owl can be heard “who-ing” soft tremulous calls that descend like a ping pong ball settling on a table.

Owls live throughout North America. Use the links above (from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds site) to see range maps to determine which owls live your area and to listen to their calls.

Look for Great Horned and Barred Owls on large tree branches. Look for Screech-Owls in tree knot-holes or on branches near tree trunks.

What owls have your seen or heard lately?

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