The reason I say it's been "quite" awhile since I've really gone birding is because I had a hike I took after work recently. I wouldn't even call it a birding outing, I needed exercise but I did want to look for a very cool bird while I was hiking. Hit or miss on the bird, the hike was more than worthwhile, the bird was an added bonus if I could see it. This bird is very cryptic and elusive, and it's witty ways often make me feel like a complete doofis while I'm stalking it. As I walked through the desert and was getting towards the end of my hike, there was no bird and only pretty landscapes to stare at.
But at one of the last possible corners, my elusive target flew out of a tree that was only feet away from me and flew shortly further down the wash I was walking down. It made me feel stupid, but then this bird is also bark-colored, which enables it to camouflage perfectly. If this bird wasn't so shy on top of it's incredibly talented ways of hiding, it would be terribly hard to find. As it flew down the wash, I saw the immediate area it landed. Depending on where I was standing, I would either see some of the bird, the long-ears of the bird, none of the bird, and if I was lucky, the entire body of the bird. Most of the time, this bird isn't happy unless it is concealed for the most part.
It then decided to be somewhat cooperative for me and it allowed me to get a little closer as it's eyes constantly followed every movement I made. The full body shot at this range in clear view would be in my dreams..
The Long-eared Owl flew further down the wash and I saw where it landed. I decided to climb up and out of the wash and attempt a different plan on approaching the bird. I stood above the tree the owl was in while being above and out of the wash. At one point, I couldn't see the bird, and when I moved over to another point, I could see it sitting in the tree, still watching my every move.
The Owl has an alert posture, and a camouflage posture. At this point, it had a little bit of both, is this the intermediate posture? :) The camouflage posture makes the bird look strange and really gives this owl a unique look about it. Long-eared Owls are very sensitive birds, I don't tell folks about the whereabouts of this bird's location. After all, this isn't the Long-eared Owl's home, it's a migration stop.
I followed this elusive creature a few more times down the wash during the afternoon. Sadly, one step I took caused me to stumble and trip and made the owl fly away further because of the noise I created. I was mad at myself for scaring the bird and I didn't pursue it any further, and I was glad to have the chance to spend time with this owl.
I didn't have to be into work until late the following day, so I did a repeat hike in the desert mountains early in the morning and walked down the wash where I observed the owl the previous night. Other than wanting to see the bird, more importantly, my body needed more exercise.
I walked down the wash and despite having the owl the previous night, it had moved on to another location and I wasn't able to find it again. Although the bird was gone from the wash, the evidence of it being there was still present in this pellet, of what was seemingly consisted of bones of a small rodent, which makes up most of the Long-eared Owl's diet.
The Long-eared Owl has an expansive range throughout most of North America and it favors a variety of habitats. Such habitats include deserts to dense coniferous woodlands. I'm happy to say I've seen them in both extremes. The Great Horned Owl is similar in it's versatility of range and habitat choices, but it is entirely different in it's behavior and ease of visibility than it's smaller Long-eared cousin. I also heard a Great Horned Owl calling in the afternoon from the mountain's high cliffs while I was watching the Long-eared Owl. This experience with the Long-eared Owl was cool in a sense: it was here today and was gone tomorrow.