I suspect many of the owls at Pheasant Branch Conservancy are used to people. Throughout the day, the roosting birds observe joggers, bicyclists, hikers, people with pets, and birders, too. Unbeknownst to most trail users, owl eyes often follow them as they pass by. Still, whenever I'm in the presence of any owl, I keep my visits brief and maintain a respectable distance. Here's a list of owling ethics that appeared in the Winter 2013 issue of The Passenger Pigeon compiled by Randy Hoffman:
- Sleeping owls are happy; if you notice open eyes on a species such as Long-eared, Saw-whet, Boreal, or Screech Owl, back away.
- If you notice these same species becoming slimmed down, looking skinny or branch-like, they are trying to hide - back off.
- Be a steward of a roost. Take care in whom you let know about the roost. Supply data to eBird after the roost is abandoned.
- Do your best to educate others about the stress that can affect owls.
- If you cause an owl to fly, do not pursue it.
- Do not bait owls with rodents.
- No flash photography.
- Stay on trails and road shoulders and ditches. Do not block traffic.
- No sound devices.
- Do not report owl sightings on the internet or bird hotlines.
- Speak in soft tones or whispers.
- Do not linger in front of an owl for more than a couple of minutes.
- Keep a minimum distance. It's best to observe with a scope.
After birding the woods, I headed to the prairie. I didn't find the Northern Shrike this morning, but I did see a Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Rough-legged Hawk, and Red-tailed Hawk. It was pretty cold and it's just going to get colder come Monday. Perhaps the neatest prairie feature this morning were the thick ice crystals that had formed on many of the prairie plants overnight:
I might try to do some macro photography of snowflakes next snowfall (perhaps Sunday). I found only 25 bird species this morning at the conservancy, but I wasn't surprised. Still, it was worth braving the near-zero temperatures this morning. Even colder weather is on the way.
Pheasant Branch, Dane, US-WI
Dec 7, 2013 10:30 AM - 1:30 PM
American Tree Sparrow
All images © 2013 Mike McDowell