Today's discovery: animals make really weird noises.
I was walking my normal loop through the Naugatuck State Forest this morning when a loud screeching call started echoing through the forest. It didn't sound like anything I'd heard before -- not like a hawk or a Blue Jay, which are the normal screamers around here. I thought it might be mammalian in origin, perhaps an agitated carnivore... which didn't make me very eager to get closer, I must say. But then the source of the sound moved, and it was now coming from above. I looked up into the trees above the path, and there, perched on a branch and very actively looking around and making that crazy sound, was a Great Horned Owl.
Great Horned Owls are the owls that make the classic "hoot-hoot" sound, usually at night, so I have no idea what this fellow was up to. I've read that juvenile Great Horned Owls make a screeching sound, but this creature's well out of the nest, so I don't know if that's a suitable explanation.
Here's a video I took of this owl making its crazy call -- I didn't think it would be post-worthy at first, but YouTube magically removed all the shaking, and now it's like a real video! The audio's quite soft, and you'll have to listen past the Blue Jay calling constantly in the background, but there's some cool stuff there. Also, if you right-click on the video to watch it on YouTube, and then enlarge it to full-screen, you can actually see the owl's mouth opening as it calls. The call right at the end is the best:
I just love owls, and any day I see one is immediately a best-day-ever. I wonder if this individual was part of the family of owls that was nesting in this same area earlier this year.... Be well, big fellow, and I hope your screaming got you whatever it was you wanted!
Speaking of strange sounds in the woods, I've been hearing this hollow wood-block sound for a while now, but it wasn't until today that I finally found its source: an Eastern Chipmunk. Here's another video -- again, you'll have to turn up your volume to hear the sound (my camera doesn't have a great microphone, as I'm learning):
Apparently this is a sound that chipmunks make when there's an aerial predator in the area, and in fact, right after I saw this guy, a small falcon zoomed across the path (chased by a Blue Jay... what tenacious birds). I've already learned to recognize that persistent bird-like cheeping that chipmunks make, but I had no idea these little mammals could produce this strange sound as well. There's always something new to learn!
Not everything in the woods today was noisy, of course, and I saw some cool silent creatures as well. The Red Efts (the terrestrial, juvenile forms of Red-spotted Newts) were out in force today, trundling along the sides of paths in several parts of the forest. (I love these little guys. Love, love, love.) The first eft I saw has the distinction of being possibly the most orange thing ever, as well as the only eft I've seen climbing above the ground (only by a foot or so, but still). Maybe this fallen branch was a handy bridge toward wherever the eft was going:
This eft I saw later in my walk was decidedly browner than the first, but no less photogenic:
Hello, eft creature, what a perfect little newt face you have:
On my way out of the forest, I stopped to hang out with a Common Yellowthroat who was foraging on a goldenrod-covered bank, when a second warbler popped into view. It was a Blackpoll Warbler, a bird I've only seen once before and at a great distance. This one was content to forage close by, within camera range:
In the spring, male Blackpoll Warblers have striking black and white plumage, similar at first glance to a chickadee. But in the fall, both males and females take on this more subdued look. Even without the bold spring markings, however, I think this is one pretty bird:
And I love that olive-and-brown striped back:
It was quite the day -- so many new things to learn, and it's always exciting to see old friends like the efts. The weather forecast is predicting rain every day for the next week, but I'm hoping there will still be a chance to get outside again before too long!