Saturday, December 10, 2011

Owl Woods

I have a growing suspicion about a particular patch of woods that I walk through whenever I visit Naugatuck State Forest: I suspect that somewhere in that patch, there is always a Great Horned Owl hidden among the tree branches. I have no proof for the "always" part of that statement, but it is true that the double-handful of times I've seen Great Horned Owls now -- including the nest this past spring -- it's been in this exact same small part of the woods. I now feel, every time I walk past this area, that a pair of yellow eyes may very well be watching me from not too far away, but the owl is so well camouflaged that I don't usually see it.

The only reason I do see the owl -- if I see it at all -- is usually because it either outs itself (by flying around and calling loudly, for example), or because another animal points it out to me, which is what a passing crow did yesterday morning. (The crow really just flew up, landed in the owl's tree, pointed its beak at the owl and said "Hey, there's an owl here!", and then flew away again.) Yesterday, my normally-unseen observer was tucked a little ways back into the forest, but once I knew where to look (thanks, crow!), I could clearly see him (or her) through the bare branches of the trees:

Oh you, with your saucy owl glare. :P I love hanging out in the owl's woods, because every once in a while I get to actually see the owl!

While I was looking at the owl, a pretty female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was hopping around in the branches above my head, and I had fun watching her as well:

These little woodpeckers are so cool, and not just because of their wacky-sounding name. I like the messy spotted pattern on these birds, so different from the more clean-cut black and white spots of the Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers I see more often around here. You can tell this is a female because she has red only on her head -- male Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers have red throats as well:

The "yellow-bellied" part of this bird's name is something of a puzzle to me, although maybe this individual just wasn't showing that color particularly well. When she flew onto another branch, I did see a bit of yellowish coloring on her lower belly, which maybe sort of counts:

Last winter, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker drilled its characteristic machine-gun rows of holes into a tree in our yard, and the dripping sap actually froze into long icicles (sapcicles?) -- I wonder if I'll see something like that again this year.

The owl and the sapsucker were the animal highlights of yesterday's walk, but I did see some other cool things as well. The ground pine -- a type of clubmoss (Lycopodium sp.), and not pine at all -- is looking pretty and decorative and doing its reproductive thing in scattered spots around the forest floor:

And since it was so cold, I got to see some lovely frost formations, which stuck around all morning. I think these dried fern fronds look especially lovely with their frosty outline:

And how cute are these super-fuzzy dewberry leaves:

With frosty mornings like this, I think winter might be just around the corner!


  1. Ok, you win! Your owl is bigger and badder than my owl! Congratulations on the awesome sightings.

  2. Julie: My owl may be bigger, but your owl was way more skillfully hidden, so I think you win! But yeah, I think my owl could take your owl in a fight. :P

  3. "sapcicles" No, no. Surely you must be thinking of Sapicles...the Greek Philosopher and Mathematician.