Thursday, September 1, 2016

In The Company of Northern Spotted Owls

While Washington had two words that consumed me: B-o-r-e-a-l  O-w-l, there was still much more of Washington to see.  I found myself out looking solo and alone one morning for another owl, the Spotted Owl.  While many of my blog posts in the past have dealt with Mexican Spotted Owls in Arizona, this search was for the Northern Spotted Owl.  The Northern Spotted Owl is a different subspecies from our Mexican Spotted Owls in Arizona, and the Spotted Owl in California is the other subspecies of the species.  While the Mexican Spotted Owl is threatened under the Endangered Species Act, the California is not, and the Northern Spotted Owl is listed as endangered.  For decades, the Northern Spotted Owl has been a controversial species in the Pacific Northwest because of it's sensitivity to habitat loss.  This bird has put many loggers in the logging industry out of their jobs, and thus, many folks hate the Northern Spotted Owl.  The Northern Spotted Owl was even on the front of the TIME magazine in 1990 over the issue and was one of a few birds to ever have such publicity.  Over 30,000 people in the logging industry lost their jobs, and the anger and hype was intense.  The Spotted Owl was in serious trouble.  It's habitat is fragile.  The bird can't thrive without it.  The aggressive Barred Owls are on the move and are hybridizing with the Northern Spotted and are driving them out.  While Barred Owls and Sparred Owls (Barred and Spotted Owl hybrid) aren't good for this environment, the Spotted Owl is becoming more and more vulnerable.  I've always wanted to see a Northern Spotted Owl in their range and habitat, and while I was in Washington, I had a chance for myself!  The fact that this was the controversial subspecies also made me want to see them.  In the Cascade Mountains during the day when I wasn't looking for Boreal Owls, I was hoping to see a Northern Spotted Owl.  This bird loves immense conifers.  And these conifers, which are especially dominated by giant Douglas fir, are 150-200 years old.  The real thing I should call it is an old growth forest.  In Washington, the logging of old-growth forests and Barred Owl range expansions have reduced the Spotted Owl population to unhealthy conditions.  This owl may be in some real trouble once again.  While I walked through the old-growth forests of the Cascades, these conifers impressed me.  Not a shade of sunlight could enter through them, which is what the Spotted Owl favors.  These trees provide canopy levels which suit up for the perfect habitat environment for these owls.  Regardless, a Northern Spotted Owl cannot survive without these huge trees.

Luckily, a young Spotted Owl curiously flew over to the right side of the forest where I was.

These owls are some of the most curious a bird could possibly be.  It sat there and stared and it's curiosity drove it even further than that.

At times it would look up at birds making noises or at squirrels climbing in the trees.  But it spent more time looking in my direction.

With a young Spotted Owl being present, the thought came to mind that an adult would have to be around.  A with an awesome turn of events, there was the adult female.  She was spied about one hundred yards away.

An adult Northern Spotted Owl is a lot darker than an adult Mexican Spotted Owl.  At times, this female Northern would blend right in with the tree bark of the surrounding Douglas firs as she moved around and watched over her young one.

Spotted Owls often perch near the trunk of the tree.

These majestic owls really made me grateful that I was able to see them.  The fun in seeing the Northern Spotted Owl almost felt like it's own separate species tick on T.O.B.Y.

As of last year, I didn't think I'd make a trip anytime soon to see the famous Northern Spotted Owl.  I'm sure this bird is sitting in it's dark and shady Douglas fir forest as we read and write...

No comments:

Post a Comment