Owling on Christmas Bird Counts
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Christmas Bird Counts are an excellent time to look and listen for owls. Early this morning I joined Paul Guris and Marty Dellwo on the Cumberland (NJ) count and we managed to call up 25 Eastern Screech Owls and 5 Great Horned Owls, our 2 most common eastern owls. While this may seem respectable for a 2 hour pre dawn period, it is a very low number for this count, which has recorded over 100 owls in past years!
Several birds came in close, giving us good looks at red-morph Eastern Screech-Owls, and one gray-morph. My observation is that red-morphs prefer deciduous woods, whereas gray-morphs tend to like mixed deciduous/evergreen habitat. All of this was just along one 5-mile stretch of road, stopping at various points with good habitat, i.e., mature, deciduous trees. The birds were in pairs. It was not long after the first one was calling that its mate began vocalizing. Often we would find 2 pairs in the same small woodlot. Imagine how many owls there must be out there!