This was a mid-week outing on December 18, 2019, from 3.30–5.30 pm — a perfect date and time to look for wintering owls. The trip was led by Chris Lotz of Birding Ecotours (www.birdingecotours.com). Our thanks to Chris for heading up this trip!
It turned out to be a very exciting outing, despite frigid temperatures. A few of us met at the parking for the Wet Prairie, Teal and Harrier Trails, at 3.30 pm. Anthony mentioned he’d arrived earlier and seen ten American Pipits along the Teal Trail, so we started the outing with a quick walk there into the marshes. We found the pipits and it was great to scope these birds feeding in the shallow water.
We then walked back to the parking and onto the mound that gives a panoramic view over the extensive wetlands and marshes. From here, we enjoyed watching flocks of Sandhill Cranes flying over. We also enjoyed seeing numerous Northern Harriers quartering low over the prairie; the males are a beautiful pale color hence their name “gray ghosts” and the females are brown, from a distance resembling our main target, the much more scarce Short-eared Owl, which we were really hoping to see.
Melody suddenly alerted us to an owl flying right near the parking and as we watched it, we were amazed to see it was actually a Barn Owl, not a Short-eared Owl! We were going to keep this a secret so as not to cause disturbance to this scarce Ohio bird, but we noticed that a park staff member posted about it a day or two later, and in fact several people have now posted about it. So, the cat (or owl!) is out of the bag.
Just as we were starting to wonder whether we’d actually see our main target before it got dark, we suddenly saw one putting on a show. Short-eared Owls are always wonderful to see!
All in all, this was a very successful outing!