Outing Report: Owl Prowl on January 27, 2018

On a day which had been overcast and dull, the evening sky cleared and a nearly-full moon shone brightly. For the twenty-seven people who gathered in the east side parking lot at the Kinghurst Forest Nature Reserve it made ideal conditions for hiking the forest at night; shadows were sharp and black against the shining snow and often the trail could be followed without extra light. The only slight negative was the lack of enough snow to make snow shoes useful but no one complained that they needed only boots for the walk.

We made quite a sight as we moved through the forest in a long line, numerous lights illumi- nating the path and murmurs of conversation carrying on the winter air. At each of six pre- selected stops along the way the group gathered into more of a circle while John delivered some interesting nuggets of owl lore and played recorded screech owl calls. As on all of the preceding four or five owl prowls, no owls were heard. At the fifth stop, along the main trail west of the wetland with the memorial bench, and at the sixth stop at the wetland, something answered the recorded calls, but it was not an owl. No one recognized the sound but the consensus was that it was more likely mammalian than avian. It was a bit eerie to think of some creature of the night moving around us in the dark and letting us hear its voice.

After the stop at the wetland bench we walked east toward the public road. Along the way we suddenly heard an owl calling in the trees nearby. It was a northern saw whet owl and it responded nicely to the saw whet calls John played. It came very close to us, although in the dark we could not see it very well. Some people saw a dark shape fly past overhead and some saw a shadow move by on the snow. What was especially nice was the way the owl let us hear both its monotonously repeated single call note and its screech, the source of its name because it supposedly sounds like sharpening a saw blade.

After that success at finding an owl the group happily returned to the parked cars and dispersed to home after almost two hours in the night-time forest. It was great to have an owl show up at the owl prowl after a few unsuccessful years.

Submitted by Angus Inksetter

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