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October 6, 2012

Owl sighting on Plum Island delights birders

Plum Island hosts its share of owls. Great horned owls nest on the island each year. They usually pick a secluded area of pines, but a couple of times they have chosen a more public viewing area for their nest, including one along the Pines Trail and another in the pines near the Bill Forward Blind in past years.

Great horned owls can sometimes be heard, and occasionally seen, at dusk from along the refuge road. During the winter, snowy owls and short-eared owls can often be seen hunting the marshes and dunes on the island. In years when their northern food supplies dwindle, we are blessed with many of these owls putting on a show for those who care to watch.

More uncommon are the saw-whet, long-eared and barred owls that stop at the island to roost during spring or fall migration, or while wandering in search of food during the winter. I have seen saw-whet owls several times on the island, roosting in a pine, cedar, or deciduous tree. I have encountered long-eared owls, the more uncommon of the owls, at least once or twice, including once at the north end of the island. I received a call from a resident that had a roosting long-eared owl staring at them while they filled their bird feeder!

Also rather uncommon for the island is the barred owl, usually a fan of wet deciduous woodlands. I have seen barred owls at Hellcat a couple of times, but the first time I saw one on the island was back when I lived on Plum. I received a call from my next-door neighbor, Ed, who told me that there was a barred owl sitting in the wooded hollow behind the house. Needless to say I rushed home to see it!

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