Friday, September 14, 2018

Western Screech Owl on Redmond Powerline Trail

Western Screech Owl on Powerline Trail / John Reinke

Actually, the little western screech-owl didn't make a sound, as it silently surveyed me from its vantage point in a
hole in a tree trunk.  And I don't know if it was a male or a female.

I was ascending the Powerline Trail in the late afternoon about a month ago, from its western terminus at the Sammamish River Trail here in Redmond.  After a few minutes, I came to a spot  where I knew one could see a tree trunk with an oval opening that was large enough to serve as a nest cavity.

I hadn't passed that way since last year, when my friend Bob Yoder had published a photo of an adult screech owl peering out of that very same space on his Redmond Blog.  The discovery and photos were taken by his friend Ingunn Markiewiez.

I glanced to my right, and saw what looked like a kind of growth occupying the cavity.  I thought that was odd, and continued climbing upward.  I had also noticed there was a kind of cobweb covering the upper part of the opening.

Credit/ John Reinke  (click photo)
It wasn't until I returned perhaps 15 minutes later, that I stopped to inspect the "growth" further.  I couldn't make out what it was exactly.  But then it moved!  I quickly realized I was looking at a western screech-owl, which had almost perfectly blended in with the surrounding tree bark.

So as not to startle it, I slowly reached for my camera.  The owl was no more than 15 feet from me, at about eye level, due to the downward sloping hillside.

I snapped off a few shots, showing the tree against the surrounding foliage, with the owl calmly nestled in the cavity.  I then zoomed in on it and took several more photos. One of the photos shows the owl blinking one eye.

The owl didn't have the pronounced ear tufts that one sees in an adult, so I concluded it was a late stage juvenile.  I initially though that maybe it had been raised in the cavity and that perhaps it would remain there for a further period of time.  

However, some friends of mine failed to see it during the next few days, and I saw no sign of it when I went past the tree late yesterday afternoon.

I then recalled the cobweb that still covers the top of the cavity.  Surely such a cobweb would not have remained in place during the time it would have taken to raise a youngster in the space.

So I concluded that the screech owl had been only a transient occupant of the would-be nest site, and I had been very lucky to have encountered it.

Happy Trails!   (And 'owl' be seeing you ....)

-- John Reinke

1 comment:

Ingunn Markiewicz said...

Aah, lucky!! I walk that stretch of the trail several times a week and I always look over that tree, just in case. :)