Monday, November 14, 2011

Eastern Screech Owl (Red Morph)

I mentioned in my previous post that last Saturday I had the opportunity to join a photographic session put on by the Raptor Conservancy in Falls Church. 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. What a start to my day. 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. Wouldn't you know it and I thought I had been so organized as I had gotten everything else ready, right down to my choice of clothing, the night before. I had left the tickets on the kitchen table ready to pick up that morning. One of my mental notes, put them in my purse or actually on the seat of the car before I go to bed. I also am not a morning person and should make allowances.

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. 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 should have known better shouldn't I? To add to the joy of the day he also said, "I hope you're not in the line for A-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. People who had already been waiting a while were not happy. I was wishing my name had started with a V, W, X, Y or Z. There was no one waiting there.

I found out why I had the longest line - it didn't seem to be going anywhere very fast. When it was finally my turn they did not have any record of my name. Not to worry, they said a lot of people had had the same problem. Apparently it was not our lucky day if your name started from A to H. I finally 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 was 'one of them', and I had paid for my ticket. At the time I didn't think of asking if there was a table plan, which there probably was somewhere. Remember I am not a morning person.

Good grief, sigh, sigh, sigh. Over there meant going from table to table to try and find the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia (RCV), and none of the other vendors knew where they were or were too busy to be bothered answering silly questions. It was a bit chaotic to say the least with lots of people milling around. and there was no way easy way of going back to the entrance to ask another silly question. I normally have loads of patience but found myself getting a little out of sorts. I did not have Gregg to help get me into my zen zone. He's so good at that.

I finally found them on the second level and by this time I was running late by about 20 minutes. However, once I had had a chat with the nice young lady who said, "You must be Denise", which took me aback 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 their names must all have started with V, W, X, Y or Z. She didn't get it and I wasn't hanging around to explain, so I smiled my thanks as I asked her where the session was being held. She gave me good directions.

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. It didn't take me long to realize that I needed that zoom and I was mentally kicking myself for not being more prepared on so many levels. As fast as I could I half-ran, did not walk, back to the car, attached the 300 and half-ran, did not walk, back to my little owl......all done without falling flat on my face I might add. 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 this little guy made it all worthwhile. I soon forgot about what had gone on before as I returned to my zen state. Gregg would have been proud. Meeting "Fire", who didn't seem to mind me being so tardy, put my day back into kilter. Yes by this time I am smelling the roses. Many 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 no longer be released back into the wild because of severe loss of vision in both eyes.

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 courtiship, while the females may hoot or bark while defending the nest.

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 cavites 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 fledging 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 mostly 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 own eggs in the nest and incubate both clutches.

I hope you've enjoyed meeting Fire. I certainly did as well as his other 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., so there will be more posts to follow.

I also found out that the RCV will be coming back next year and am very happy about that. Next time I will remember my tickets and won't give myself an hour-and-a-half head start, I'll leave at the crack of dawn AND I won't believe anyone who tells me I won't need my zoom lens. Oh yes, I'm also thinking of changing my name to something beginning with Z.

I returned home via Starbucks where I treated myself to a cafe latte. 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.

Gregg was visiting Virginia Beach this past weekend and took his Dad for a ride on the Sunday morning, and the day before they were at a local restaurant. Good to hear and they all had a great time too. Gregg took a few photos which I will share later on.


  1. Thank you so much. Jealous, jealous, jealous thoughts from Oz. What a wonderful experience which I am v grateful to share.

  2. Wow! Those are such cool pictures! Thank you for sharing!

  3. Oh WOW ! what beautiful shots. I cant stand it when you go to something like this and they have no clue what they are doing or how to run the groups. I love the way you write . Papa and I belong to a photography club named The Photographers Of Otter Valley with in our community and are soon to go to a place called Hawks cliff where there are a lot of birds of pray in their natural habit. I cant wait ! I will be bringing my zoom 300 for sure lol. Have a wonderful evening.

  4. We have those little Screech Owls here on the farm. I just love to go sit in the pasture and watch them. They are so little and so cool~! Thanks for the great pictures.
    Have a Tiggeriffic Day ~ ta ta for now from Iowa:)

  5. what awesome captures!

    Aloha from Honolulu

    Comfort Spiral

    > < } } ( ° >


  6. Oh, Denise, what an adventure! With my last name, I would have been in the A-H group, too. Ah, well, things turned out well eventually.

  7. Denise, that was quite a handsome fellow that I am borrowing one of the photos to add to our annual Holiday cards! ;-)

  8. Well I sure do hope you enjoyed the rest of the day. There is nothing worse than a frustrating start. The owl looks scruffy but cute.

  9. I'm so glad you got your lens and made it for these wonderful shots of the owl. You certainly turned your trials and tribulations into a very entertaining post although I know how frustrating it can be to be well prepared and have everything go wrong.

  10. What a beautiful coloured bird Denise.

  11. The pics turned out great, Mrs. Z! It's too bad when things go wrong like they did. You deserve better than that.

  12. Great captures, Denise - fascinating birds! Despite the unexpected frazzled start to your outing, the results suggest it was worth the perseverence.

  13. Well it was certainly worth all the hassle you went through because these photos are golden. Your zoom lens did a fabulous job. You are such an amazing photographer, Denise.

  14. Interesting post and story and photos.

    For your info and to answer your question:

    I spend hours working on stick figures of birds. Honestly, 40 years ago I did, now I am trying to relearn how I did it back then.

    The "Trinity" with three fishes made by swirling a pen or pencil without lifting it off the page. Fascinating stuff back then now it is a learning experience.

  15. What a wonderful opportunity dear Denise, Glad that you enjoy this special day!
    You are very talented, your pictures are brilliant!

  16. A wonderful post Denise.. thanks for sharing.

  17. What a nice looking Owl and I enjoyed reading the info on them. Isn't it frustrating when things planed don't go right. Thank you for leaving kind comments. Hope you have a nice Thanksgiving.

  18. wow, what a cute visitor!

    those captures are really gorgeous!
    thanks for sharing!

    i loved this post!

  19. I think the owl name was well chosen. :) You got some great shots.

  20. What an incredible event! But, don't you hate it when the organization isn't organized (ba-dump-bump) and can't get it together! Maybe they will do better next year! Wow, I would LOVE to see such a display of these wonderful creatures up close! Seeing Fire was such a treat! (Changing your last name to Zoroaster might be a good idea, as you say!) :)

  21. Denise, what a great post and I love the photos of the Screech Owl. They are beautiful birds. Sad to see they can not be out in the wild but at least they are safe. It sounds like you got off to a bad start but all ended well with wonderful photos. Thanks for sharing, I hope you have a great weekend.