October Owl Prowl Is a Hoot

Thirty adventurous people were treated to a fun filled night during the Friends' sponsored Owl Prowl on Oct. 21st. We walked only a short distance before hike leader Tom Uttech tried calling in Wisconsin's smallest owl. Within minutes the weak tremolo of a single saw-whet was heard about 100 yards away.

Its faint call was coming closer and closer until suddenly two Barred Owls flew in, landing only a few feet from the road. They, too, had heard the saw-whet owl and come in for a possible late night snack. The saw-whet disappeared while the barred owls' "Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all?" calls echoed back and forth just over our heads. They continued to entertain us for over 5 minutes while co-leaders, John O'Donnell and Carl Schwartz, scanned surrounding trees for their silhouettes.

As soon as they zeroed in on the owls' location, John and Carl turned their spot lights on the pair. The barred owls continued to hoot even while being in the limelight. Eventually the larger barred owl, presumably the female, flew off leaving its bewildered partner behind. He called for his mate for a short time before he, too, vanished into the woods. When the birds were out of sight the group broke its silence and exploded with questions about the experience. Their first question being "did we stage this performance?"

With time to spare, the group moved south to the Field Station's boardwalk. Winds had calmed and clouds cleared revealing a beautiful moon. This time our guides played screech owl calls. After numerous repetitions, a faint reply came from a distance but the songster never ventured any closer. Before calling it a night, the leaders attempted to call our state's largest owl. Although the Great-horned Owl didn't return their calls, bill snapping and moving branches clued us in to its presence. Four species of owls in two hours – not bad for one night! "Prowlers" who weren't quite ready for bed were invited to follow Tom Uttech home to try to call in a Long-eared Owl in his neighborhood. A few "night owls" took him up on the offer.

See the Calendar for information about the next Owl Prowl.

--Mary Holleback

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