, Newburyport, MA

Local News

October 6, 2012

Owl sighting on Plum Island delights birders


“When we got to Hellcat and chatted with Suzanne, as well as Kirk Elwell and Nancy Landry, we were told that there was some sporadic activity in the Hellcat trails, and among the more prosaic warblers they had seen a juvenile mourning warbler. I took some time to see if I could hunt down the mourning warbler, to no avail, and Lois and I decided to head off for some lunch.

“I hadn’t driven past the crosswalk at Ralph Goodno woods when my cellphone rang. A cellphone ringing on Plum Island is usually good news. It was Nancy. “Dougie, I’ve got the barred owl here in Hellcat.”

“Sure enough; following her instructions, Lois and I joined a small cluster of people on the boardwalk near Ralph Goodno woods in an area generally known as “the swale.” Up in a large maple about 10 yards off the boardwalk there sat a barred owl, his back to us, looking around casually. It was occasionally bothered by a few pesky songbirds that flickered around it chattering and scolding, but the owl seemed generally unconcerned. I suppose as an old forest hand, this owl was used to such treatment.

“Will I ever learn? I had done this before; that is, driven away from a life bird through inattention and carelessness and have eventually managed to recover and find the bird later. It happened again. Being a Plum Island life bird, this would have been a particularly disappointing miss. But I got my Plum Island lifer number 331, with a little help from my friends. Thanks, Nancy. Much obliged. Also noteworthy is that this bird has been around for a while; there was a report of barred owl in the Hellcat area last weekend.”

That barred owl was still hanging out at Hellcat this past week, at least as late as Thursday.


Steve Grinley is the owner of Bird Watcher’s Supply and Gift at the Route 1 traffic circle in Newburyport and the Nature Shop at Joppa Flats.

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