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Friday, December 11, 2009

Owling with kids

Wednesday night I took a dozen kids from church on an owling expedition. We only had an hour, which was about enough time to hit three wooded areas near the church. At the first, where I've had very good close looks at Eastern Screech-Owl in the past, we got nothing. Second stop, same thing. We spent a few extra minutes showing the kids some constellations in the clear December skies, but I was getting nervous. SE Pennsylvania is crawling with screech owls. Where could they be?

Finally our two vans had to blitz down to another spot 10 minutes away where I've had owls in the past. After five minutes of playing the tape, a lone Eastern Screech-Owl answered the call. We couldn't get it to come in close where we could spotlight it, but all the kids got to hear it trilling off in the darkness.

Mission accomplished! Sort of. Most of them still haven't seen an owl, but now they've at least talked to one in the night!


Calli Makes Do said...

Rob, I live in Alpine Utah and would like to take my young kids owling. I have twins who are 7 and a 9 year old. We have snow shoes and I was hoping we could start at dusk. I've never been owling before myself. What suggestions do you have to increase our chances for success?

Cheers, Calli

birdchaser said...

Hey Calli, a couple suggestions:

1) go out the first time on your own to try and find some owls without the kids, so that you will know what you are doing better when you have the little ones with you, and hopefully you can relocate any owls you find the next night or so when you are with the kids.

2) you've got a couple species there on the Wasatch that are findable by owling--Western Screech-Owl and Northern Saw-Whet Owl. Screech owls are usually easier to call up and have come in where you can see them, and are often lower down in the valley. Saw-Whets are usually higher up in the canyons.

3) If you want to try for both species, always play the tape of the smaller species (in this case the Saw-Whet) first, so as not to scare them off with the call of the larger owl.

4) I've got friends in the Utah County Birders who sometimes lead owling trips out there. Email me personally if you are interested in having me hook you up with them. It's always fun to go with someone who knows what they are doing (and where the owls most likely are!).

Have fun! I went to BYU and had some good times owling out there back in the day!

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