I live in Portland Oregon with my wife Tui, two sons Charlie (aged 5) and George (aged 2), and dog Ziggy. This entry details my owling exploits for 2016 around Portland and further afield in the Pacific Northwest.
Jan 1st. It was a bright freezing morning. I took George (in the stroller) and Ziggy to Reed Canyon. The wind blew from the frozen east through the gorge and blasted us. Fortunately my heart was warmed by a lovely barred owl roosting in the usual Doug fir at the west end of Reed Canyon.
We returned by Oaks Bottom overlook, and checked the old ash tree for roosting screech owls to no avail. Later that afternoon I returned to Oaks and walked around the east side of the wetland. I checked the old ash again, but the owl was still gone. I found several small firs splattered with white-wash, but none had roosting owls in them. On the way back I checked the old ash one last time and found a screech owl roosting in the usual cavity. (I reckon that it had been in the same cavity all along and had just made its way closer to the entrance as the sun began to set).
Jan 2nd Another bright freezing day with strong easterlies. Late in the afternoon I revisited the Doug fir at the west end of Reed and enjoyed great views of the barred owl. I walked the whole canyon, but found no other owls.
Jan 3rd. It snowed today. I revisited the Doug fir in Reed Canyon but failed to find the barred owl. Later I returned to the canyon and found clumps of screech owl feathers under a big cedar.
Death in the snow
Sure enough a deadly barred owl was perched about 15' above me.
Jan 4th This morning I had planned to head to southeastern Washington with Konchog in search of long-eared owls. Instead we were pinned down by an ice storm. By noon the main roads looked good, so I ventured to the Eugene area. First stop was Mt Pisgah in search of pygmy owl. It was raw and rained on and off-hardly surprisingly no pygmies were calling.
Next stop was Meadowlark Prairie in search of short-eared owls. I had to wait until it was quiet dark before seeing a distant bird quartering the wet grasslands next to a northern harrier for comparison. Also in the area were three lovely rough legged hawks.
From there I drove out to the end of Royal Avenue, by Fern Ridge. I immediately found a great horned owl silhouette in a small willow tree.
Finally I tried Oakhill Cemetery. A pair of great-horned duetted in the tall firs.
Jan 9th. A couple of days ago Andy Frank had reported 3 short-eared owls roosting on the banks of the Colombia. I walked the riverbank near the airport and after 45 minutes of searching found a dark (female?) bird roosting in a grassy tussock. The bird flushed almost immediately and flew out into the river, then returned to land 1/4 mile downstream. The roosting spot was clearly well used because it was thickly coated with whitewash and strewn with pellets.
Jan 11th. A friend of mine, Konchog, asked me about seeing long-eared owl. This is a hard bird locally so I asked around. Mike Denny in Walla Walla kindly offered to show us a roost site.
We Met Mike and his wife MerryLinn at Hood Park on the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. They kindly drove us around Walla Walla County in search of owls and other good birds.
Our first stop was at Charbonneau Park, where we flushed barn owl and found a roosting great-horned.
At Fish Hook park we found a second roosting great horned. Additionally we found two lovely saw whet owls, both roosting very low in conifers. Mike mentioned that they almost always chose to roost away from the trunk unlike screech owls which typically roost next tot he trunk.
We drove through the tiny community of Eureka, WA and saw a great horned perched in a back yard cottonwood.
We tried a couple of road-side deciduous thickets along Smith Springs road in search of roosting long-eareds but only found a pair of great-horned owls in a cottonwood. Then at our last site at Smith Springs we found three amazing long eared owls roosting together very low in a riparian deciduous thicket. Fully alert and agitated these amazing owls look like anorexic cats.
Our next site was lower monument dam, where we waited in the cold for a slaty-backed gull, a rare Siberian visitor, which eventually showed much to Konchog's delight. We visited a small quarry where bank swallows had bored tunnels into the sandy banks. Amazingly a flock of rosy finches was using the same tunnels as roosting sites.
We drove back through rough grasslands in search of short-eared owls but found none. Back at Eureka we found a second great-horned roosting high in a concrete grain silo.
Back at Hood park we thanked Mike and MerryLinn for an amazing day then headed home high on owl sightings and caffeine.
Jan 16th. On a rainy Saturday afternoon I drove down to Finley National Wildlife Refuge. By the time I arrived the sky had partially cleared and the weather was dry.
I spent an hour and a half scanning the Prairie Overlook before the first short-eared owl emerged from the tall grass. It quickly climbed several hundred feet then headed north to parks unknown. A couple more owls emerged, one distant, the other quite close by. It perched in a tree and surveyed the prairie for a few minutes before starting to hunt.
Jan 18th. Between the showers I walked around the east side of Oaks Bottom today. At the usual broken ash tree I found two roosting screech owls. This is the first time I have seen an owl using the more open cavity in about a year.
Jan 23rd. Again I walked around the east side of Oaks Bottom. At the usual broken ash tree I found two roosting screech owls, as if frozen since last weekend.
Jan 25th. Brandon Wagner had kindly offered to show me a short-eared owl roost just north of Monmouth in Polk County. Late in the day we saw seven lovely short-eareds emerge from a stubble field and fly south east for some distance to an unknown location.
After a very good diner at Brandon's we ventured out to the foothills on the edge of the Willamette Valley just north of Dallas. We were trying for a nocturnal pygmy owl, but instead were rewarded by a chorus of tree frogs, three singing great-horned owls (two males and a female) and a calling barred owl.
Jan 30th. After the boys went to bed I headed out into the coast range in search of Saw-whet owls. Near Banks my brights shone on a big coyote as it ran across the highway. High in the Coast Range I got caught up in a surprise snow storm. The wet snow was so slick I couldn't drive up into the forest roads. Fortunately I was able to descend to Jewell it was dry and calm. There I found a road-side barn owl perched on a fence post. I also heard a saw whet call in response to playback. This was my first in Clackamas county.
Driving east on Hwy 202 towards Birkenfeld I found two more roadside barn owls, both perched on power lines.
Once I reached Colombia County I started searching for saw-whets again. Despite 20 stops I didn't get a response, or hear any other owls. I did see a roadside elk and coyote. Back home just before 4am.
Jan 31st. Charlie and I took Ziggy for a walk to the overlook above Oaks Bottom. I found the screech owl roosting far below in it's usual hole in the old ash tree.
Feb 6th. The boys and I walked around Oaks Bottom. At the usual old ash tree I found the pair of resident screech owls.
Feb 8th. I traveled out to the hills behind St Helens in Columbia county in search of saw-whet owls. It was a mild and moonless night. Unlike last week, when I could not find a saw-whet in Columbia, this night I found one on my first try. It didn't sing, but screeched and barked. I did get brief views as it flew very low in a vine maple.
Feb 14th. I took George around Oak's bottom and readily found one screech owl in the usual ash tree.
Feb 16th. I set off at 1am to explore Lane County. I started working a mosaic of small fields and woodlots south of Eugene for Barn owls, but came up short. While looking for Screech owls on some dry hillside Oaks and fir forest I was stunned to discover a singing long-eared owl. It's voice had a remarkable toy-trumpet like tone to it. A little further uphill I could hear a pair of great-horned owls duetting. Nearby a pair of saw-whet owls responded to my solicitations. At dawn, but before sunrise, I found a territorial northern pygmy owl on a hillside covered in tall firs-my first for the year.
Feb 21st. Kathy Krall had reported a short-eared owl in the fields around Tillamook. This would be a new owl for my Tillamook list. Charlie and I drove through a torrential downpour in the coast range only to arrive under blue skies in Tillamook. We waited for over two hours until we saw a short-eared owl working the dairy fields. We also saw a lovely female barn owl hunting in broad daylight. This is a common sight in the winter in the UK, but the first time I have seen a day-hunting barn owl in the USA.
Charlie and I celebrated with a trip down to the beach to watch the sunset, followed by a couple of tortas.
Feb 29th. Determined to continue my Lane County owling quest I left home at 1am. My first stop was the north end of the county, near Fern Ridge Reservoir. After about an hour I heard distant barn and great-horned owls.
At Oakhill Cemetery Road I heard a screech owl bark in response to a tape of it's song.
South of Spencer Butte I tried for barred owls. Almost immediately my phone ran out of juice. I decided to walk the road, and luckily heard a pair of barred owls singing from a dense ravine beneath the road.
Mar 5th George and I visited the Barred owl nesting tree at Tryon. After a couple of minutes I found a barred owl roosting in a cedar about 70' from the nest site.
Mar 6th I took the whole family back to Tryon State Park to show them the barred owl. Like a feathered statue, it was on the exact same perch as yesterday.
Later I walked out to Oaks and found the screech owl sunning itself in the usual south facing cavity.
March 12th. George and I returned to Tryon. We found a barred owl roosting next to the nest site. Later that afternoon Charlie and I drove out to Oak Island Road on Sauvie's Island. We saw a very tame beaver cross the road. While watching the beaver from the civic, a great horned owl flew out across the slough. At the north of the island, we found a female barn owl roosting in an abandoned barn.
March 14th, Tui and I returned to Tryon. We failed to find the barred owl near the nest tree. Near the headquarters I found, by luck a pygmy owl, perched low in a maple. I was really pleased as this was my first at Tryon.
April 2nd. Charlie, George and I went to Steigerwald in search of a burrowing owl that had been reported for a couple of weeks. We were unable to find the burrowing owl, but as a consolation found a dark great-horned owl roosting in a cottonwood.
April 4th. Tui and I went to Vanport to check on the nesting great-horned owls. We found two big chicks in the nest and an adult bird in the same tree.
April 9th. George and I went to check out the barred owls at Tryon Creek. For the first time we could see the female bird in the nest hole-just the top of her head. We saw two other adults-confirming their 3 bird breeding arrangement. All three birds called spectacularly to the delight of us both.
April 10th. I decided to explore Douglas County. My first stop was Mildred Kanipe County Park. I found an aggressive pair of screech owls, a rather silent great-owl and a pair of noisy peacocks.
I worked a lot of fields for barn owl, but came up short. At dawn, just west of Drain I found four great-horned owls, a saw whet and pygmy owl. All singing around a clearing in some industrial forest.
April 10th. I took the whole family back to Tryon. We found just one barred owl, but got great views all the same.
April 11th. Tui and I walked around Oaks Bottom. At the usual ash tree we found a roosting screech owl. On the return, walking up to Sellwood Park we found a second screech in a tree crack. Amazingly the bird wriggled and shuffled out of the crack as we watched.
April 16th. It was George's birthday weekend so Tui's mom, Lina and her kids were in town. We took everyone, except for her mom to Tryon Creek.
It was a beautiful morning, made better by the owls. A scolding robin cued me into a pygmy owl, perched on the side of a mossy trunk. At the nest site we found one barred owl. It was roosting, but eventually woke. We were able to watch it preen-which is like watching a cat take a bath. It was amazing to see it run it's bill along it's flank feathers-which must have been 4"-5" long.
That afternoon I took myself to Oaks Bottom and found a screech owl sunning itself from the usual tree.
April 17th. I walked down to Oaks Bottoms, and just like yesterday found a screech owl sunning itself in the usual ash tree.
At sunset I went to check out the Vanport great-horned owl. The young had fledged the nest, but I found an adult (male?), nearby in a cottonwood.
April 23rd. The whole family went to Tryon State Park. We heard a spontaneously calling pygmy owl down by the creek.
At the barred owl nest site we found one actively hunting adult barred owl-I guess the babies are getting big and hungry.
Later I walked to Oaks Bottom overlook to check on the screech owl. Sure enough the owl was sunning itself in the usual cavity of the old ash tree.
April 24th. I took George to Santiam State forest. I was looking for pygmy owls. Unfortunately we had to endure an unstable cold front, and it rained, poured, hailed and was briefly sunny all in a couple of hours. I did hear a couple of pygmy owls, but neither responded aggressively to my tape.
Tui and I took an evening walk to the overlook at Oaks Bottoms. It was a beautiful evening, with big dark clouds over the West Hills and rich yellow light pouring in sideways. We found the screech owl in his usual cavity, looking particularly nice bathed in the soft light.
April 25th. Tui and I went to Tryon Creek on a cool April afternoon. Scolding robins, Stellar's jays and warblers gave up a barred owl. We had to wade through a nettle patch, but it was worth it to find the owl, so close, and perched low, beneath us in a ravine.
We also heard one, or probably two pygmy owls singing spontaneously during the day.
April 30th. A friend had recommended a site in Polk county for spotted owls. Armed with exact directions Tui, Charlie and I drove into the coast range. We arrived just before sunset. Next to a stand of beautiful mature Doug fir we parked. Almost immediately Tui caught site of a shadow. Sure enough an amazingly inquisitive spotted owl had flown in to check us out. It called, and soon it's mate arrived on the scene. These fantastic owls called back and forth as they watched us from just 20'. It was just brilliant. Even Charlie, who is usually reticent about owls was thrilled by this big chocolate out perched out in the open.
I tried for pygmy owl, which would have been a new one for me in Polk county but got no response.
May 1st. I took the boys to the Oaks Bottom overlook to check on the screech owl. The ash tree still wasn't fully leafed out, making it easy to find the owl sunning itself from it's usual perch.
May 2nd. Tui and I visited the barred owl site at Tryon and found two big fledglings by the entrance of the nest hole. Despite the heat we heard all three adults calling between each other.
May 7th-8th. Charlie, Chad and I returned to Polk county to camp in the Coast Range. Our plans were a little disrupted by a topless lady and her friend at the pygmy owl stakeout. We drown the road, and waited them out before returning to have the place to ourselves. The pygmy owl came right in and we had great views of him singing in the clearcut. We built a fire and cooked carne asada and drank beer in the sun.
Around sunset we checked out last weekend's spotted owl site, but saw nothing except for beautiful big trees. Back at the pygmy owl site we set up camp and built a big fire. When it was almost dark we heard the pygmy owl again. Chad forgot his tent, so it was a tight squeeze, but it worked. In the middle of the night a barred owl sang, and sang.
The next day we cooked bacon and drank hot coffee for ages, before returning to the lowlands. I checked out a barn and found a female barn owl on about 5 small chicks.
May 16th. Tui and I checked out the barred owls at Tryon. We didn't see any young birds, but quickly found two adults thanks to some noisy mobbing jays and robins.
May 21st. I decided to visit central Oregon in search of owls. It was a cool damp night. My first site was SE of Madras for long-eared owl. I was surprised to find deep mud puddles along the usually dry dirt roads. I heard three packs of coyotes and a poorwill but found no long-eareds.
My nest stop was east of Redmond, near Powell Butte in Crook County. I quickly found a couple of responsive screech owls in mature junipers.
Next I tried for screech owl, near Camp Sherman. I didn't find any screech owls in the Ponderosa forest but did hear a single toot of a saw-whet.
At my final stop, a little to the west of Camp Sherman, at the edge of the of the Cascades, I tried for Flammulated owl. By now it was late, and a little windy and I heard nothing. I set up camp and slept soundly despite the wind.
May 22nd. I unzipped the tent to see a group of deer watching me. Minutes lately a coyote carrying a rabbit passed by. I set a small fire and brewed coffee for breakfast. Once I was fully awake I walked along the forest road in search of pygmy owls. The forest was opened up by an old burn, and after an hour I found a singing pygmy owl high in a Ponderosa.
May 30th. Armed with better information from Chuck Gates I returned to Jefferson county and found a day time long-eared owl in a willow thicket. The bird called-a fairly rapid series of short, but deep hoots-presumably an alarm call. I hiked around Gray Butte, and tried for screech owl and listed for great-horned owl but found neither. I did hear a lot of coyotes and saw poorwills and nighthawks.
I also ventured up to Virginia Meissner Sno Park in search of saw whet owls. I was getting tired by now and all I got was a distant flammulated owl. Still it was a lovely place to camp.
May 31st. I tried a couple of spots near Bend for Great gray owl but came up short.
June 12th. I worked Wasco County, near Dufur in search of flammulated owls. I arrived at dusk and was greeted by many nighthawks. Soon poorwills started calling, then from a stand of small pines a flammulated! I ended up getting great views and was able to see the long wings of this long distance migrant.
On the way out I found a great horned owl along Friend road.
I tried for screech owl in Sherman county, but came up short and just heard a couple of chats singing.
June 19th. The whole family took a walk to Oak's bottom. Near the south end of the park I found a lot of white-wash in some small firs. Eventually I found a juvenile screech owl hiding in one of the small firs.
(Charlie and I spent the night near Black Butte looking for owls. We found none-but had a great camping trip and saw a couple of bears and a goshawk. Plus lots of bugs that fascinated Charlie).
June 27th Tui, Maile (the new dog) and I walked McCleay trail in Forest Park. Mid morning we found two quiet active hunting barred owls and heard a begging juvenile.
July 4th. While staying with Tui's family in Federal way I drove out to Sunrise on Mount Rainier. I arrived well before dawn and walked around, listening for begging calls of juvenile boreal owls. Nothing. Once day broke, I checked stands of thick trees for whitewash and pellets of roosting owls but again came up short.
July 10th. The whole family was staying in an AirBnB rental in Bend. Very early in the morning I ventured out to the Suttle lake area. I tried for great-grays, flammulated and saw-whet owls. At times it rained and later it was blustery. The weather and season (mid summer doldrums) conspired against me and I heard and saw no owls.
July 11th. Determined to redeem myself I explored the forests around La Pine. Apart from wishing upon a half dozen shooting stars the night was uneventful and owlless.
July 17th. The whole family went to Tryon for a late afternoon walk. I heard a distant called great-horned owl. Later near the nest side a scolding pair of robins led me to a young barred owl.
That evening I walked out to Sellwood Overlook Park and found a family of screech owls. I saw three young owls-there could have been more. They were very obvious-constantly flying in the canopy of a big oak and begging for food. I was able to see an adult bird, and heard a second.
July 23rd. George, Maile and I headed out to Kinzel Lake for a camping trip. George was a brilliant camper, and we had a lot of fun catching frogs, newts and garter snakes in the lake. That night I heard singing barred owls in the valley below the lake.
Aug 1st. I checked Crystal Springs and Westmoreland for screech owls, but came up short. I tried the south end of Oaks, sleeping past a sleeping man on a bench, I found a quite spot and enjoyed a singing screech owl in silhouette.
Aug 7th. I visited Deschutes county in search of great-gray owls. The juveniles had gained enough independence that their parents were less obliged to hunt during the day than they were last weekend. I hiked 16 miles with Maile in search of the owls. Alas the best I could do was hear a couple of begging calls of a juvenile great-gray owl from the opposite side of the Deschutes.
Once it got dark I heard one or two begging juvenile long-eared owls from a stand of willows-also on the far side of the Deschutes.
I camped by the river, and soon after I settled into the tent I heard two begging great-horned owl juveniles. They triggered a distant barred owl to sing briefly. The great-horneds moved around rapidly. Unsure of what they were, I tracked down one high in a pine.
In the middle of the night, Maile awoke disturbed by an animal. Her growling woke me. Fortunately I could hear deer hoofs outside.
Aug 28th-29th. I drove out to Cottonwood Canyon State Park in search of screech owls. Driving through Fulton Canyon I found a day time road side Great-Horned-a beautiful, fairly pale grayish owl, quite different from the chocolate colored birds of Western Oregon.
I arrived at Cottonwood Canyon at dusk, and hiked in a mile and a half with Maile. It was a hot evening, and in places dense with mosquitoes. I was watched by six big horned sheep, high above from the canyon walls. As it got dark, I heard several poorwills, and found one fluttering along the trail, eventually Maile noticed it and gave chase. On the return I tried for screech owl, but came up short. I did heard the alarm call of long-eared owl from a thicket, but didn't see the bird.
I then tried for screech owls in the small towns of Wasco, Moro and Grass valley, but again came up short. At least in Grass Valley I found a fox, another great-horned owl and heard a barn owl.
It was a long drive south along 97 to Madras, a headache built, and eventually I had the sweats and felt like I was going to puke. I pulled over and tried to sleep, but couldn't. The cool air helped and by midnight was back on the road. I tried Peleton Dam overlook for owls and heard a begging great-horned owl-soon I found the bird perched on a power-line. It's surprising to me that these birds that breed in the winter would be begging so late in the summer. I tried for screech owl, but to no avail.
My last stop was just down the road, at Mecca Flats, where screech owl had also been reported. I was pretty exhausted, and didn't give the site the attention it deserved, and again came up short.
I camped at Mecca Flats, and slept soundly with Maile at my feet.
Sep 5th. The whole family stayed at a cabin at Cape Lookout State Park. I set my alarm for 230am, but woke up just before it went off, excited to see some owls. My plan was to drive into Northern Lincoln County.
Just north of Nestucca a barn owl flew over the car. Near the Cascade Head Experimental Forest center a black bear ran across the road.
My first few stops were unproductive. Then I drove up to drift creek trail-head. I hiked about 1/3 mile down the trail with Maile and heard a barred owl singing. I stopped along Bear Creek road and hiked the road, listening for owls. I heard a second barred owl and a pair of great horned dueted briefly at dawn. I also solicited a couple of pygmy owls with a tape.
Sep 15th. It was the night before Tui and I travelled to Chile. It was warm in our room and we openeded the back door. A barn owl called twice from a tall cedar. Hopefully a good omen.
Sep 26th. My Dad was in town for a couple of weeks. On the last whole day of the visit we decided to climb Dog Mountain in the Columbia Gorge. About a half way up we heard a pygmy owl-it mad a rapid call, similar to a squirrel's alarm call followed by one give away piping note. We were easily able to tape the bird in and got good views under the canopy.
Oct 8th. I took Maile down to Waldo lake to search for boreal owls. We got out onto some rough roads, and I eventually had to abandon the civic and walk. Despite trying for several hours I heard nothing. Maile loved the night hike, and it was nice to have her with me. I always feel safe with a dog.
Back at the car, the only obvious place to pitch the tent was on the road. It was a cold night, and I cuddled up to Maile to stay warm. At 7am, I heard a truck and had to move the tent and car out of the way to let it by.
Oct 17th. After a stormy wet weekend, Maile and I head out to Sauvies Island. After running Maile on the beach I check out an abandoned barn and find a roosting female barn owl. Along Oak Island Road I flush a second barn owl from a small conifer. This one is looks like a male. Our next stop is McNamee Road where I find a pygmy owl.
Oct 30th. On a dark and damp Sunday afternoon I visited Jackson Bottom wildlife refuge in search of short-eared owls. I found no short-eared, but in the back wood I heard a great-horned owl singing an hour before nightfall.
Oct 31st. I took Maile for a walk around Oaks bottom. I found a beautiful great-horned owl-a relatively small dark bird with rusty cheeks. The bird was resting under a tangle of vines
Nov 11th.I took the boys to Sauvie Island to build a fire on the beach. After we tried a couple of the regular spots for barn owls. I found a nice delicate pale male roosting in a dense cedar.
This evening I checked out the south end of Oaks Bottom. I was surprised to see a squirrel run down a tree after dark. Above it, I could hear a commotion. I assumed it would be a raccoon, but it turned out to be a big barred owl! I got great views of it perched in an oak tree.
Nov 19th. George and I took Maile down to the Sellwood Waterfront Park. After playing along the shore we heard the sound of scolding jays and crows. We followed the sound into a dense thicket of small conifers where we discovered a barred owl doing its best to ignore the harassing corvids.
Nov 20th. I took a late afternoon walk around Oaks Bottom. At the usual broken ash tree I found a roosting screech owl. This is the first time I'd seen an owl in the ash for months.
Nov 25th. George and I were walking Maile through Westmoreland park, when I saw a barred owl hunting from a fence. Unfortunately I flushed it and it disappeared before I could get a better view.
Nov 26th. George and I were walking around Oaks Bottom. Again in the usual roost site in the broken ash tree I found a roosting screech owl.
Nov 27th. In the same broken ash tree I found the screech owl roosting.
Nov 28th. I walked Maile on Oak Island Road (Sauvie Is) and found a (presumed male, fairly small and very dark) great horned owl roosting in ivy. At the usual barn was a roosting barn owl-first time I have seen it here in years, despite checking every time I drive down the road.
Dec 3rd. I returned with Maile to Oak Is Rd on Sauvie Island. Both the lovely dark great-horned owl and the barn owl were in the same locations. I then drove up to Scappose Bottoms and found a field full of raptors. After quarter of an hour a dark short eared owl emerged from the grass and flew high above the pasture. It repeatedly "clapped" its wings below its body.
Dec 4th. Maile and I walked to the overlook at Oaks this morning, but I was unable to find the roosting screech owl in the old ash tree. Undeterred I walked around the bottom of the bluff this afternoon with George. The view of the cavity is better from bellow and I was able to clearly see the roosting owl.
Dec 5th. It was a wet day with heavy rain and intermittent sleet. Despite this, I was feeling like owling-so far December had been a good month. Maile and I drove out to Reed Canyon and started searching under some wet fir trees for barred owls. I had not found a barred owl at Reed since January, but today was my lucky day. Almost immediately I found a bird roosting low in a fir tree.
Dec 8th. I was lucky enough to be dismissed from work due to impending snow and an ice storm. After sledding with the boys I visited Reed Canyon and re-found a barred owl in the same fir. The bird was grooming and its feathers were puffed out, so it looked twice as large as it did previously.
Later Maile and I took a walk along the base of the bluff at Oaks Bottom. I checked the usual cavity in the broken ash for a screech owl, but it was vacant. On the return I checked again and it was occupied. I assume the cavity goes deep, and the owl was out of sight. Perhaps they move up and down in response to the wind. Or because it was getting close to hunting time?
Dec 9th. I had the morning off work due to the ice storm. The roads were not so bad, so Maile and I drove out to Reed Canyon. The little canyon was filled with the sound of water dripping from the ice-glazed trees. I found the barred owl almost right away-it had moved into an adjacent tree.
Dec 10th. I returned to Reed Canyon with Maile and quickly found the barred owl in the usual place.
Dec 11th. A banner day! I checked out Reed Canyon on my morning walk with Maile. I found a lovely pair of inky-blue Steller's jays by the creek. We come eye to eye with a wet barred owl hiding out low in a dense conifer. I steal a quick view.
Later that morning I took George for a walk along the base of the bluff at Oak's bottom. I didn't find the screech owl at the usual ash tree, but on the return I looked up and found a rain-soaked screech owl at the entrance to a big cavity in a Cottonwood tree.
After lunch George and I went to Sauvie's Island. We found the great-horned owl at the "usual" perch-low in a cottonwood and partially protected by ivy. Despite staying in the car, the bird looked alarmed-ears high, and eyes wide open, so we left quickly.
At the barn I found a female barn owl, tucked, almost out of sight in the corner of the roof.
Determined to find a "new" owl that I had not just seen a week before, I checked out some dense conifers looking for roosting owls. I found nothing and was returning back to the car, when I noticed a dark, rail-thin owl. A long eared owl was roosting at the edge of the conifers! This was a great find for me-the last long-eareds I had found in Multnomah County were a pair at Ramsey Lake in June 2003. I moved on quickly to avoid flushing this special owl.
On a roll, I decided to head out to Scappose to look for short-eared owls. At the wet field I checked out last week I found five short-eared owls. One owl flew around clapping its wings and calling. The others hunted low over the grass. I have a lot of favorite owls, but short-eared owls are probably my favorite to watch. Their deep wing beats and erratic flight is just memorizing.
Dec 12. Maile and I ventured up Skyline Blvd in search of pygmy owls. Our first stop yielded nothing, but Maile was happy to run free. Our second stop was along Leif Erickson trail. Quickly we found a calling pygmy owl, which we were eventually able to see briefly as it flew between two Doug firs.
After lunch I walked Maile out to Reed Canyon, where we found the barred owl in the usual place.
At 9pm I drove out to Tryon in search of saw-whet owls. I had not been night owling in ages. It was a cool night, with a big bright moon. At the entrance to Tryon I ducked behind a tree to avoid the guy who locks the gate, then slipped into the forest. Everything looked absolutely beautiful in the moonlight. On Saturday while walking with the family I had found a possible saw whet roost site-a pile of whitewash under a thick conifer. I found the roost site, and nearby was a signing saw-whet owl. I tracked it down, doing my best to walk stealthily through the tangle of fallen logs, ferns and blackberries. Eventually I saw it in profile against the sky. I was able to spotlight him and enjoy a beautiful view of this excellent little owl.
Dec 15th. It snowed last night and this morning we were treated to a snow day. I took George out to Reed Canyon. We found the barred owl in the usual tree.
Dec 17th. John and I drove out to Sauvie in search of the long-eared owl I had found there last week. We were unable to locate the long-eared owl. We did venture down Oak Island road, where we found a pair of great-horned owls together at the usual site. Both birds looked remarkably similar, which surprised me-I was expecting the female to look both larger and darker. Perhaps they were not a pair?
The barn was devoid of barn owls, but we did find a male and female barn owl roosting in some snow clad conifers.
Dec 18th. I checked the Oregon Birding listserve after lunch and was shocked to see Bonnie Comegys had reported a burrowing owl at Broughton beach. This is a really rare bird in Multnomah County-one that I had never seen. Knowing it was new for my friend John, I called both numbers and headed to house, but I was unable to get a hold of him. I drove out to Broughton Beach and was surprised to find no other birders around. After walking around for twenty minutes I found the owl in some rocks. I got great views of this fantastic bird. I was able to call John again, and he was heading out to take a look. Soon I was joined by a half dozen other birders. Unfortunately the owl was flushed by a rabbit of all things, then a dog walker, and finally by a birder trying to relocate it-this time it flew over to the airport. We were not able to relocate it on the airport-being greatly hindered by our inability to walk around. Instead we prowled along the fence line scanning across the ever-darkening airfield. Bittersweet we vowed to return tomorrow.
Dec 19th. Determined to help John see the burrowing owl, I returned early with Charlie and Maile in tow. We met Bob Stites out at the site. It was a cold wet morning-not really the best conditions for finding a burrowing owl. Still the weather would deter dog walkers and other birders who could disturb the owl. On the rocky embankment we flushed the owl after a couple of minutes of walking and got nice views. We also saw a coyote, who eyed Maile (as a meal or a mate)? Further along we ran into a hunting male short-eared owl.
John and I were really happy about this one-it had been years since we had seen a county lifer together. Charlie was a good sport, despite the foul weather-we celebrated at Grand Central with coffee and a Christmas cookie.
Dec 27th. I took the boys to Reed Canyon to search for the barred owl. While busy showing Charlie the roosting owl, George climbed out of the canyon and started running away through campus. Much to George's delight I had to chase him down. Charlie admonished me "your kids first dad, then owls".
After Tui returned home from work, I ran down to Oaks with Mail and found, under fast fading light, the roosting screech owl in the usual broken ash tree.
I took the boys to Willow Bar and build a reluctant fire on the beach. After the fire we ventured down Oak Island Road. I found a single great-horned owl in it's usual roost site-an ivy clad cottonwood. At the thick hedge I eventually found a lovely male barn owl.
Dec 31st. I walked Maile out to the overlook above Oaks Bottom, and could just make out a roosting screech owl far below in a hole in the broken ash tree.
Later the whole family walked Reed Canyon-we found pellets, poop and screech owl remains at the barred owl roost, but no barred owl. Just Like Jan 3rd 2016. The year is framed by screech owls predated by barred owls.