Saturday, December 15, 2007

inner city owl

In Milwaukee's inner city, there are many problems. Lots of these problems are related to human greed and indifference, racism, selfishness, and intolerance. To top all of that off, there isn't much space left for wildlife. That's not surprising - many major cities are no different. But Milwaukee (County) has a park system still having much to offer, and in some areas, wildlife still can find a place.

Today was the day for the Milwaukee Christmas Bird Count. My absolute good fortune led me to this Long-eared Owl, in dense brush and a row of trees along a creek, during a steady snowfall. While I've found this species in Milwaukee County before, I don't find one every year, and it is always a wonderful find - a gift, in fact.
Long-eared owls may be in decline - there is much we don't know about their populations. It's a relatively cosmopolitan species, circumboreal in distribution (found around the northern hemisphere). The raptor trappers at Hawk Ridge have caught fewer in their banding nets as the years have passed - that seems ominous to me, but as I mentioned above, there is much we still have to learn about them, and about their numbers. They are secretive, not easily censused, and don't respond well to tapes. In fact, of the times I have heard them on nocturnal surveys, they have occasionally responded to a tape of a screech-owl - not to a tape of a long-ear vocalization. It has often seemed as though they are stimulated to call by the screech-owl tape, but that they seem to realize that they "made a mistake", and they immediately stop calling. This individual was found in the late morning, however - no tapes were used.


R. Squier said...

Bill, that is a gorgeous photo. I enjoyed the UEC count and saw a GHOW flying west across the river. I really value your blog, and have it as my home page. Thank you.
R. Squier

John said...

Great find for an urban park!