Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Owls and Songbirds Already On Nests
March 19, 2011
By Steve Grinley
Last week I mentioned that Doug Chickering had found a couple of great-horned owl nests in two separate heron rookeries. One nest was near his home in Groveland, and Doug followed up with another recent visit to that site:
“Today I took a walk around the block at home. It’s a nice two and a half mile jaunt that is good exercise and good for my health as long as I watch out for the traffic. It’s also a nice walk to look for birds, which is the most important feature – especially now when my walk takes me by the nesting Great Horned Owl on Bare Hill Road. It was warm enough today and the traffic was light and the birding was okay.
“As I walked under the Power Lines that cross over the heron rookery and Bare Hill Road I could hear the growing chorus of a lot of calling Crows; all excited. I was a little concerned, for this racket was coming from the general direction of the nesting Owl. Sure enough when I reached the point where I could see the Owl on nest there were several Crows surrounding her. Some were hopping from tree to tree, some were flying around, and many were perched in the trees around the nest. A few occasionally dove at the Owl, but none seemed to actually touch it, and although they were raising a great commotion they generally kept their distance.
“Through all of this the Owl sat still; attentive and upright, its ears erect and giving an air of quiet, determined defiance. An example of grace under pressure. I counted 23 Crows but I am sure there were more. I guessed that the Crows wanted to drive the owl off its nest in order to feed on the eggs or fledglings. I think by its behavior the owl probably thought this was true as well, for it soon became evident that if the Crows wanted this bird to leave they were going to have to do more than just holler at it.
“As I was watching the drama unfold I was briefly distracted by the arrival of a male Pileated Woodpecker in the tree right beside me. It was a year bird and it is hard not to watch a Pileated under any circumstances. After a few trips from tree to tree around the area, the Woodpecker left and I turned my attention back to the Owl/Crow fracas.
“I noticed that the tumult began to die down. Then, one by one, the crows got bored, or disappointed, or whatever and flew off. My admiration for the courageous qualities of the magnificent creature only increased and I hope the poor Owl doesn’t have to endure this ordeal every afternoon.”
Interestingly, owls are not the only birds sitting on eggs this early in the season. A fellow birder from East Bridgewater, on the South Shore, reported that a pair of Carolina wrens were bringing nesting material to his upside-down kayak. This is the second year that the Carolina wrens have used his kayak as a nest site. Upon further investigation, he found that they were now sitting on eggs! It seems a bit early for these small songbirds, but they are just getting a head start on spring!
Bluebirds are already checking out nesting boxes in the area and it won’t be long before they, too, will be starting their first brood. After the heavy rains and winds of last spring played havoc with many of the early nesters, let us hope that this year’s spring weather will be more conducive and result in more successful nests for all of our birds.
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