Friday, March 19, 2010

Barred Owl Nest

Barred Owls (Strix varia) are frequently observed from the boardwalk at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest.  We have witnessed one owl take a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) from a tree, but usually the owls are seen hunting, catching, and eating crayfish.  This week was no exception.

Almost everyone coming off the boardwalk reported seeing a Barred Owl.  Many saw owls catching crayfish.  However, we were able to see an adult owl catch, declaw, and carry a crayfish to the bird's nest within a Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) cavity.

On a previous trip around the boardwalk, we observed an owl hunting crayfish near the edge of the swamp by #3.  Once the owl had captured a crayfish, we watched it fly to two separate perches within nearby trees, each perch slightly higher than the last.  Eventually, the owl flew up high into a Bald Cypress, but out of view.  By the time we were able to move to a vantage point with a clear view of the tree's east side, the owl had flown in the opposite direction.  We took note of where we were standing.

This week, we saw the owl in the images, watched it catch a crayfish and prepare it for consumption by another individual.  Knowing where we needed to be, we quickly moved to the point with the best view of the suspected nest tree while the owl cautiously worked its way higher up the nearby trees.  Right on cue, the owl flew to the cavity opening and delivered the crayfish meal to its mate or possible one of its offspring!  Look closely at the arrows and you will see that more of the cavity is visible by the right arrow.  The owl is present at the left arrow and blocks a portion of the cavity, but the owl's color and pattern camouflage its presence.  The entire tree (in the distance) is shown in the right image.

Images by Mark Musselman

No comments: