Date: 11/5/17 9:38 pm
From: <ericwalters7...> [ILbirds] <ILbirds-noreply...>
Subject: IBET Re: Saw-whet owl
A tip of the cap to Chuck as he clued me into Loud Thunder Forest Preserve (Rock Island County), a location I hadn't hear of before, even though I've passed thru this area in various times in the past. Loud Thunder FP had excellent Fall color yesterday, better than most parts of IL. It seems like its being managed well, even many fruit tree plantings present, which contributed to the 90+ waxwings/30+ robins here. I can picture a Varied Thrush visiting here someday....

I did explore the site late Saturday afternoon for potential Northern Saw-whet Owls and created a 9 stop route, including around where Chuck had his a while back, then starting at dusk I ran the route. The spot that had the best looking habitat for a NSWO was were I had the 1st one, the owl giving the 'poodle bark' call (sounds a little like 'nyuk'). I most likely had a 2nd one later, but hunters in a truck came barreling into the parking lot as the owl gave its scream and it never called again, so couldn't get a 100% ID. I did have 3 Barred Owls reacting to the tape, along with numerous White-tailed Deer (2 bucks) and a pack of Coyotes barking all together (which can be intimating when they are fairly close).

Since I'm on the NSW owl topic, its worth highlighting that Screech and Barred can give screams that are very similar to NSWO's. In fact, I've had to reevaluate a couple of my personal reports from years ago, as I have quite a bit of new experience on this. I also suspect there's a number of eBird reports from the last 5-10 years that are also misID's of NSWO, from folks who just heard an unusual scream. Here's a few helpful tips, so you don't get overly excited until you have sufficient proof you have a NSWO:

1) Barred's that scream back at NSWO recordings will always (100% in my personal experience) follow the scream with their 'who cooks for you' song. That sounds simple enough, except that the scream is very loud (sounds a little louder than NSWO, but slightly less piercing) and the song is very soft. When playing a Barred recording (or calling them in using your voice imitation), their song is much louder. For some reason its quite soft after giving a loud scream. The problem with this is a birder can easily feel there's 2 owls out there, the scream being a NSWO, followed by the softer (i.e. 'more distant') BrOwl. However, its the same owl, a Barred jarring you with the scream and then for some reason giving its faint response.

2) E. Screech Owls will also do the same thing as noted above with Barreds. Its scream is slightly less loud and piercing than NSWO (granted, if you don't have field experience with any of these owls doing that wild scream, then its hard to separate the slight differences). If you get what sounds like a NSWO scream followed by an ESO tremelo song, then its extremely likely one and the same bird (I do believe I had a one time experience where there was a NSWO screaming back to my recording and then 2 ESO's came flying in to give their tremelo which drove the NSWO away). If you get an ESO very soon after the NSWO, then you shouldn't count the 'screamer' as a NSWO until you get a visual ID via flashlight or you get the owl to call again using a different known NSWO call. I would also encourage you to update/correct any past eBird reports if this situation describes what you experienced in the field, as I firmly believe there is data out there on NSWO's that are actually ESO's. Over the last couple years, I've seen experienced NSWOers make this mistake and were shocked to experience how similar sounding the ESO scream can mimic the known NSWO scream.

3) Another quite useful item is to note where the scream is coming from. The majority of NSWO's I've gotten are from less than 5 feet from the ground and the vast majority under 10 feet. Thus, if you get a loud screaming owl that sounds like your NSWO recording... but its 15 feet or higher in the tree, then that location is a very strong mark against your ID! NSWO hunt and feed most of the night around 2-4 feet off the ground and in my experience do not come flying up high into trees just to scream back at you. I know I've had just a couple (and have found just a couple overnight roosting) 15 feet or higher, but generally speaking, you should be thinking ESO or Barred if higher than 15 feet and you'll want to get additional confirmation you actually have a NSWO. Of course, if a Barred or ESO starts to call minutes later from the same general area that you thought you had a NSWO screaming at you, then well, I would actually encourage a different thought process.

Hopefully the above few notes will help increase NSWO night time IDing. Right now is a great time for NSWO migration in N. IL and they should be peaking this week in C. IL.

Eric Walters
Grandview, MO/Zion, IL

---In <ILbirds...>, <cwleib@...> wrote :

I heard my fos saw-whet owl yesterday morning while camping at Loud Thunder Forest Preserve. Also a red-shouldered hawk.

Milan, Rock Island county

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