Date: 1/14/20 12:00 pm
From: Kim R Eckert <eckertkr...>
Subject: [mou-net] more on the Barn Owl
For those who might be interested, here’s some additional information on the now-deceased Barn Owl seen by many on January 11-12 in the Sax-Zim Bog along St Louis CR 7. Some of the reports regarding this record have been somewhat confusing and sketchy, and I wasn’t aware of some of the actual details until yesterday...

On the 11th, it was initially and separately identified by both Heidi Kirsch Novak and myself in the late afternoon as it hunted the fields east of CR 7 near Byrnes Greenhouse – i.e., about halfway between the "Twin Cities” of Sax and Zim). It flew from north to south near Heidi’s position on Dibbell Rd, and she recognized what it was and got some good flight images. At the same time, I was with a Minn Birding Weekends group and others birding along CR 7 about 1/2 mile to the south, when someone spotted a whitish-looking owl flying in the distance from the north (i.e., from the direction of Dibbell Rd) and called out Snowy Owl. (This ID was understandable since a Snowy had been seen here the previous day.) Because of the distance and brevity of this first view, its ID was uncertain until it reappeared in flight a short time later and eventually flew a bit closer (though still at a distance) and at a better angle. I then managed to find it in the scope while it was in flight, could see that it was actually and surprisingly a Barn Owl, and called it out to the others.

Shortly thereafter Heidi arrived where we were, not knowing whether or not we had seen the owl; nor did we know she had also seen it from Dibbell Rd. Other birders in the area were then called who were able to arrive and see it before sunset, including Frank Nicolletti (who was a few miles away with part of the MBW group) and Clinton Nienhaus (who was leading a field trip for Friends of Sax-Zim). Given the time of day, it wasn’t possible for birders from Duluth, the Twin Cities, or elsewhere to arrive in time to see it then, but it did reappear on the 12th when it was seen and photographed by many others before it died en route to The Raptor Center in St Paul. Its cause of death is still unknown at this time until there are lab tests and further examination.

I learned later that some of those on the scene on the 12th talked to the property owners who reported thay had actually noticed the owl at first about a month ago (!), as it was roosting in one of the sheds on their property. (I don’t know whether or not they knew what species of owl they were seeing.) I also learned recently that an owl was seen here briefly by birders on January 1 and tentatively identified as a Barn Owl. They reported it to the Friends of Sax-Zim Welcome Center (and perhaps others), but there apparently was no follow-up on that sighting since the ID was uncertain and unconfirmed.

By the way, by all accounts there were no reports that any birders or photographers harassed the owl in any way – nor was there any real potential for harassment, given the location and terrain where the owl was hunting.

To my knowledge, this is the seventh Barn Owl record for northern Minnesota, including one found dead near Duluth in January 1984. The other published records were a February 1960 record from Duluth, and in Cook, Polk (the most recent in 1986), Beltrami, and Hubbard counties.


Kim Eckert, Duluth

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