Thursday, August 27, 2020

SCREECH OWL - LAST RAPTOR POST FROM THE RAPTOR CONSERVANCY OF VIRGINIA DEMONSTRATION

From an original post in November 2011 (old blog that is no longer available).   Certain info may have changed since then.

This is the only other bird I took photos of from my photographic session with the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia.  I have not mentioned it before but it was being held at the George Mason University Campus in Manassas, on the grounds of the Hylton Theater for the Arts.

My session started at 10.00 a.m. I had driven two miles - thank goodness it wasn't any longer - when I looked on the passenger seat where I had placed my purse and my camera, and realized I had forgotten the tickets. So I turned around and drove back home. I thought I had been so organized as I had gotten everything else ready, right down to my choice of clothing, the night before, and I had left the tickets on the kitchen table ready to pick up that morning. Mental note: put any future tickets in my purse or actually on the seat of the car before I go to bed.  (Not a morning person!)
Even though I had given myself lots of time, my unexpected turnaround put me behind schedule, and when I got there I found that I still had to go inside the theater to show that I had turned up.  I just thought it was a matter of following the signs to the bird demo.  This was not made very clear on the online program, but the friendly chap at the door said, "You have to join everybody over there." "But I already have my tickets" I answered hopefully. He smiled patiently and said "That's great but have you paid your main entrance fee?" I did not know there was a main entrance fee. To add to the joy of beginning the day he also said, "I hope you're not in the line for A to H."  When I looked at my line, yes that was where I had to go. It was about three times as long as the others and there was a lot of grumbling around me as I joined the queue, and the hall was jampacked with  people jostling shoulder to shoulder.  There were other events also. People who had already been waiting a while were not happy. I was wishing my name had started with V, W, X, Y or Z. There was no one waiting there.

My line wasn't going anywhere very fast, and I found out why I was in the longest one. When it was finally my turn they did not have any record of my name.  Not to worry, I was told, a lot of people have had the same problem. Apparently it was not our lucky day if your name started from A to H.  When I finally reached the table I was told that all was well but then was sent to the RCV table 'over there' to pick up my name badge, so that those outside could see that I had paid for my ticket.  I was not given a table plan at the door as they had run out. 

'Over there' meant weaving through a couple of dozen or so tables to find the one I needed, and none of the other vendors knew where their table was, and people like me looked like they were doing the same thing.  It was a bit chaotic to say the least and I felt the crush of the very large crowded hall.  There was no easy way of going back to the entrance to ask. Access was blocked by too many people, several complaining about the same thing I had encountered.  I felt sorry for the people working there.  I normally have loads of patience but found myself getting a little out of sorts, a bit stressed thinking about missing precious time with those lovely birds. 

I finally found the table I was looking for on the second level, and by this time I was running late by about 20 minutes. I had a chat with the young lady who said you must be Denise.   I was taken aback for a few seconds and at my look of surprise she explained that I was the only person who hadn't signed on the dotted line yet.  Oh joy, last one to the party!  I said the other attendees names must all have started with V, W, X, Y or Z.  She didn't get it by her puzzled look, and I wasn't hanging around to explain, so I smiled my thanks as I asked her where I had to go.  She gave me good directions from there.

Ten minutes later I was with my group......30 minutes late.....not so bad really......BUT online somewhere I had read that we would be about six feet from the birds and would not need a zoom lens. Thinking about carrying the extra weight I left it in the boot of the car and so I attached my regular lens. Looking at all the others with their long lenses, I  realized that I needed that zoom and I was mentally kicking myself for not being more prepared on so many levels. This was not a good start, nothing seemed to be running smoothly.  I heard a few people complaining to the ladies giving the demonstration, and I wasn't going to join in.  If I did anything like this again, I would get there two hours ahead of time instead of that one hour I had given myself.  Knowing that I would regret it if I didn't, as fast as I could I half-ran, did not walk, back to the car, quickly attached the zoom and half-ran, did not walk, back to my little owl, all done without falling flat on my face. I don't have the greatest reputation for staying on my feet when I rush through life, so I have been trying to slow down and smell the roses, and I certainly could not do this now if I tried.  But...
all of a sudden there he was. This little guy made it all worthwhile. I soon forgot about what had gone on before and returned to my Zen state.  There is nothing like wildlife and nature to calm one's soul.  Meeting "Fire", who didn't seem to mind me being so tardy, put my day back in kilter. It wasn't long before I was smelling the roses and smiling from ear to ear.  Most of the birds I met that day had sustained some kind of injury and sadly none of them would be able to return to the wild.  Fire, if I identified him correctly from the Raptor Conservancy website, came to them in late 2003 after he had been hit by a car. It was determined that he could not be released again because of severe loss of vision in both eyes, poor wee little thing.

Doing a little research I found that the Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio) is the most common owl in the woodlands of eastern North America and is nocturnal. It often nests in tree cavities and nest boxes in close proximity to people. They grow to an average length of about nine inches, though the male of the species is roughly an inch shorter. The female has an average wingspan of 22 inches versus the male at 21 inches. The normal weight of the female is 7.3 ounces with the male near 7 ounces.
There are two color morphs of the Eastern Screech Owl, a gray phase and like "Fire", a rufous (reddish-brown) phase. It can be difficult to distinguish the Eastern from the Western species but the color of the bill will decide. Eastern Screech Owls have gray-green bills while Western Screech Owls gray to black bills. Their call can also separate the two species. The call of the Eastern male includes a long trill or a whinny during courtship, while the females may hoot or bark while defending the nest.  You can hear the Eastern Screech Owl at this link.  The Western Screech Owl can be heard here.  
Breeding season will normally begin around mid April but can start as early as mid March, and continue into May depending on the geographical location and temperatures.  They nest almost exclusively in enlarged natural tree cavities, but they will also use old Pileated Woodpecker and Northern Flicker cavities.  They readily use owl and wood duck boxes.  
The female will lay between two and eight eggs.  The period of incubation is normally 26 days following with the young fledgling at 31 days.  The adult owl will remain in their home territory year-round, whereas the young will disperse in the Fall.  An interesting fact about the Screech Owl is that pairs are almost certainly monogamous and remain together for life.  Some males, however, will mate with two different females.  The second female may evict the first female, lay her eggs in the nest and incubate both clutches.
I hope you have enjoyed meeting Fire.  I certainly did, as well as his friends who followed him.  I had bought two tickets, one for the owls at 10.00 a.m. and another for the hawks at 11.00 a.m., which I have already shared.  Apparently I have been working back to front.  I followed no particular order when sharing these posts.


I returned home via my favorite coffee shop.  The shot of caffeine did not alter my tranquil state and for the rest of the day I went through the dozens and dozens of photographs I had taken, organizing and resizing all of them.  I am thankful, after a few hiccups at the start of the day, it ended up on a wonderfully even keel.

This is my last of the series and I hope you have enjoyed them.  If you have missed any you will see all by clicking on The Raptor Conservancy of Virginia among the labels under this post.  

I am having a bit of a break until Monday to see if I can catch up on reading comments and visiting blogs.

Thanks for following along.  I wish you a happy day, as well as a great weekend.






31 comments:

  1. What a frustrating day - with an incredible reward. All those people would not sit well with current Covid restrictions would they?
    Thank you for these posts. Later this year I hope to get up close and personal with our BARKING OWL . Bushfires, covid restrictions and now their breeding season have delayed the treat, but I hope to get there soon.

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    1. Thanks EC, you are very welcome. It was thankfully at a time when we didn't have to worry about such things. You've had terrible times with those awful fires and now this. I hope you'll be able to visit with your barking owl. I look forward to those photos, with the hopes that all will be well over there soon.

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  2. So great to see these closeups of the owl. I still want to see one in the wild sometime! Hope the rest of the week and weekend are good for you.

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    1. Hi Ellen, me too! I'd like to see one in the wild also. Thank you and I wish you the same :)

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  3. Piercing eyes...thanks for sharing. What a disaster about the tickets and lineups though, so discouraging.

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    1. Thank you Christine, it was certainly one of those days :)

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  4. What a story about your visit! It's a miracle you even made it to the actual owl! But wow, it really was worth it. This is the cutest little guy. A once in a lifetime opportunity, for sure. I had no idea there is both an Eastern and Western species. Where do you get your cute little caption pictures at the bottom of your posts?

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    1. Hi Ginny, it was quite a day but it ended up working out better than I could have wished for. My signatures are made with the help from pixabay.com and paint shop pro. I got the owl from Pixabay and put the signature on with the help of Paint Shop Pro. Thanks for asking :)

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  5. Witaj serdeczne pozdrawiam Cię piękne zdjęcia.

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    1. Pozdrowienia! Dziękuję za odwiedzenie mojego bloga i pozostawienie miłego komentarza :)

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  6. Photos are lovely and you certainly didn't have a good start to the day, but it ended well...interesting read..

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    1. Thanks Margaret, yes a rocky start but a great ending :)

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  7. Hello, Denise,
    What a story, I am glad you had such a great ending with this beautiful owl.
    Your photos are awesome. Enjoy your day, have a happy weekend!

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    1. Hi Eileen and thank you :) He was a beauty wasn't he? I wish you the same for the weekend :)

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  8. That really was quite the story about your visit, Denise, and it certainly paid off with wonderful photos of these magnificent birds. Good thing you did turn back to get the tickets, but what a hassle to have to wait in line still. Enjoy the break.

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    1. Hi Dorothy, it was almost like a comedy of errors that day but those birds were worth it all :) Thank you and have a great weekend!

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  9. Fire is beautiful and wrhth the aggravation and trip back to the car for the lens. I enjoyed the story even the part about getting ready. often I put things on the drivers seat to the car so i dont forget them. i have to many times laid something with my keys and wallet and left that somethng home.. like a lab RX and having to go back home for it... i don't remember if you saw my post back a few weeks ago about our 2 screech owls and finding one excactly lke Fire dead in our rain barrel from rat poison.. i cried when i saw him dead. he looked just like this one.. the mate is still here, i have heard it but not seen it

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    1. Thank you Sandra, I guess we all go through something like this at some point :) Somehow I must have missed the post you mentioned. How sad! I would have cried too.

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  10. What a story!!!

    but he is precious!!!!

    Glad you persevered!!!!

    🍂✨🍁✨🍂

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    1. He was precious! Thank you BB, I am glad I persevered also :)

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  11. Beautiful owl! I have a problem getting places early, unless it's 10 minutes early. I often wish I had allowed more time.

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    1. Yes Linda and a sweety :) I have to set myself timers for a lot of things because if I don’t, that rushed feeling stays with me, and I don’t move very fast these days.

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  12. What a day! I can tell that owl is a deep thinker.
    Amalia
    xo

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  13. Hi Denise,
    I always leave home so as I am going to be early, but invariably finish up late, in some respect at least you made it.
    Superb series of images of the Screech Owl and the information given
    You both stay safe
    John

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    1. Também o achei lindo :) Obrigado e desejo uma boa semana.

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  15. Loved this series ...we have visited bird conservancy places in both Florida and here in Eugene, but never had such amazing photo ops . I really admire the work they do. Thanks for sharing all this. (Couldn’t help but think how nowadays you wouldn’t dare do that crowd scene at the beginning of your day! Actually of course how the opportunity would never be offered now. I never have loved crowds like that of course, who does? But I hope someday again we won’t have to avoid them under pain of death .

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    1. So glad you enjoyed Sallie. I remember seeing one particular such place that we were able to visit when we were in Florida along the keys. Amazing place! No, couldn't do that crowd any more could we? I could barely do it then as I am very anxious in crowds.

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