As March's spring weather has arrived, I find myself in the middle of my best owl month in years. If the sounds I'm hearing coming from the forest are any indication, this should be a great owl nesting year. If I don't put in the work now, I won't be able to find the owls this summer.
A couple of evenings ago, I stepped out just before dusk and noticed a pygmy owl was calling in the distance. I haven't called one in for a few years so thought I'd give it a try. I began answering his single 'toot" with one of my own. For the next fifteen minutes we went back and forth as he drew closer and closer. Finally, he glided in to perch just overhead. In the gathering gloom we looked at each other for a time, then he was gone.
Yesterday morning, I stepped out at dawn and there he was tooting just above the cabin. "He's looking for me!".
As luck would have it, there was only a slight breeze last evening so Cindy, Kelly and I went owling. We left the cabin at 9:30 PM and drove out to the Trout Lake Pull-off. This was farther than I usually go, but I'm glad we did as a saw-whet was calling just to the north!
At my #1 listening post at Pebble Creek, another saw-whet called just west of the campground and a boreal owl sang to the northeast.
At Post #2 in Ice Box, a boreal sang north of the west end.
At Post #3, Lower Barrronette, a boreal sang from the north along the Soda Butte.
At Post #4, Upper Barronette, another boreal sang from the northeast.
Post #5, Montana/Wyoming State Line, a boreal blasted away from the north only a few feet away. I walked in with a flashlight, but soon was floundering in deep soft snow.
Past Post #6, Northeast Gate, Cindy and I thought we heard one far to the north, but it was fleeting.
Back at our cabin, Post #7 a boreal sang practically in our front yard.
One more stop. Post #8 at Sheep Creek was silent. But the night had given us nine owls. Two saw-whets, the first I've heard in three years, and seven boreals. Add the pygmy from that morning and we had found ten owls. The next 2-3 weeks should only get better!
Research indicates boreals and saw-whets call from possible nesting sites. Today, in daylight, I snowshoed into where the singing came from last night. Sure enough I found 3-4 good sized nesting cavities.
I'll be out listening again tonight.