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February 2013

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From:
linda whyte <[log in to unmask]>
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linda whyte <[log in to unmask]>
Date:
Sun, 3 Feb 2013 08:57:12 -0700
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Thanks to Ben Yokel of Cotton, we were able to see two different Boreal
Owls, both hunting in the Duluth area, near the old and the new highways
61. Earlier reports had led us to the the first prospective site, and when
that was not successful we explored a nearby area, checking both conifers
and shrubs along E. Superior St. That's when we happened across Ben,
focusing on a Boreal right between the roadside and the RR track that
parallels the street. We were able to observe its hunting behavior at close
range for quite some time, a great way to enjoy a life-bird.
Well-camouflaged, despite the bare shrubs, the bird was focused intensely,
with both eyes and ears, on the narrow drainage ditch between itself and
the tracks. It was perched fairly low or mid-height in the bushes most of
the time, dropping to ground once; Ben had seen it catch and eat a small
rodent. It patrolled along the ditch for the most part, though it later
made one brief flight across the road. Ben showed us a second Boreal Owl,
hunting the edges of a what looked like a very narrow clear-cut; that owl
was perching a bit higher in deciduous trees.
Seeing  such active hunting while it was still fairly early in the
afternoon, was somewhat unexpected. While we were grateful for the
opportunity, I wonder if this indicates the severity of the food-shortage
or territorial needs that caused this irruption. If association with human
habitat offers the Boreals better food prospects, it may also expose them
to risks for which they're unprepared, assuming they have little experience
with cars, for instance, as was the case for Great Gray Owls in their
irruption. Hopefully, night-time drivers will be alert. It would be
especially distressing for my next look at a Boreal to be in the Raptor
Center clinic.
When we were viewing the first owl, a flock of hundreds rose over the woods
behind us. It was likely the Bohemian Waxwings, but we didn't get the
satisfying looks to confirm another lifer. I wonder where/what they've been
eating---and what the record time might be, for those nomads to perch and
feed in one place!
Linda Whyte

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