Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Eastern Screech-Owl

Soon after we moved into our apartment back in July, I got a tip from one of my bird-watching colleagues that an Eastern Screech-Owl is known to sometimes roost in a tree behind a gas station down the road from us. I love owls, and I'd never actually seen a screech-owl before, so I've been careful to bring binoculars and/or camera with me on every trip to get gas these past few months, just in case the owl's there. But its hole has always been empty. Until the Friday before last, that is, when we went to the gas station and I left my distance-viewing gear at home. "Ha ha," I joked, "of course now that I don't have my camera, this is the day the owl will be there." And, of course... it was! Gah! Well, we got to at least glimpse the owl in the twilight that day. And then on a sunny afternoon a couple of days later (December 4), I revisited the gas station with camera and binoculars at hand, and oh happiness, there was the owl. :)

For context, here's the owl's tree, with its cavity facing out over the parking lot:

I've just learned that Eastern Screech-Owls are actually quite adept at living in suburban and even urban-park environments, which never would have occurred to me. Is the reason I haven't seen a screech-owl in all this time because I've been expecting to find them in the woods, rather than in gas station parking lots? Well, now I know! Of course, I probably would have never seen this owl in the first place if I hadn't already known the exact spot to check. This really is some amazing camouflage:

What a beautiful little owl, huddled into the tree, drowsing in the sun:

I love this creature's puffy feathers below its face, and all those different patterns and shades in its costume that make it blend so well with the tree's bark. The owl watched us through slitted eyelids for a bit:

But then it turned its full glare on us and we got the hint: time to go!

Wonderful screech-owl, I hope you stay for a good long while in your cozy winter apartment. It's so awesome to have this little owl as a neighbor!

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