Monday, January 18, 2010

Barred Owl Hunting in the Snow

Posted by Kirk
While out snowshoeing with a group of cub scouts on Saturday we came upon this owl imprint in the snow. It was a cool experience as I had been talking about owl imprints in the snow earlier on the hike. There were no small mammal tracks on top of the snow so I'm assuming it was going after an animal in a subnivean tunnel. Imagine the surprise when the tunnel collapsed and an owl came crashing through. You can see the hole where the owl's talons and body crashed through to the layer underneath.

There are really two prints in this photo. One print is from the initial impact of the bird and the other is from the take-off. In the initial impact, the owl's wings were more tucked in and it landed facing the top left corner of the photo. The leading edge of the wings dug in and made an arc on each side of the hole. When the bird took off it rotated so it was facing the top of the photo and with one strong wing flap took off. For take-off, the wings were fully extended and you can see the imprint from every primary feather (especially on the left wing.)

Saturday evening I taught an astronomy program and there were at least two barred owls calling in response to our captive owl. As near as I could tell it was our owl that started the calling. It was magical to be standing under a clear star-lit sky showing the Orion Galaxy to kids while owls called from the dark woods. It's a rough job but someone has to do it.