Yesterday, 02 November 2017 at about 1 p.m., I discovered a state endangered Barn Owl (Tylo alba) in the Hammond Bird Sanctuary. Bob Buskirk, former editor of the Indiana Audubon Quarterly, was visiting the sanctuary, but was in a different area so I went to look for him. Within minutes we connected to go where I had seen it, but, it was gone. We walked together and separately to relocate it, but failed. Due to time constraints and drizzle, we left the sanctuary at different times.
Today Kathy McClain and I walked the sanctuary in the earlier afternoon and it wasn’t seen.
This is the second Barn Owl in the history of the sanctuary. It was a calm, sunny 60-degree day on October 25, 1993 when I had a 10:30 a.m. appointment with Elizabeth McCloskey, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, to walk the woods. The 16-acre sanctuary was threatened by a condominium and retail development so the meeting was to convince the Service it should be protected for the birds. As we walked the landfill, it was hard to describe how it attracted massive numbers of birds since it was the end of October. Talking on the trail in front of Liz, to my amazement, I was interrupted by the sight of a Barn Owl that flew from a very big old Mulberry Tree. (The tree is still there.) It was about 4 feet off the ground when it started to fly low toward us, and at about 30 feet in front of us, it extended its talons to brake its flight and turned around. It flew to the west end of the woods and perched high in a cottonwood tree. The tree still had gold leaves on it that camouflaged its golden feathers well, but we both had good looks at its white heart shaped face. We were speechless and convinced it was bird sanctuary.
Twenty-four years ago was prior to the marina, casino, parking lots, and overpass so it was conceivable why it landed there. Why it appeared on the lakefront today is truly puzzling.