Night Sights and Sounds

At MSRW’s owl-banding station at Mill Creek Historical Park, we are up all night checking the mist nets and banding owls. An added perk is that we hear and see other creatures while we are out there. The most common sounds we hear are those of other owls. A pair of Barred Owls live up the ridge from our nets and we hear them many nights. The most common call that we hear is a long descending ‘hoo-ooo’ given about twice a minute. Occasionally, we hear a pair ‘caterwauling’ off in the distance, when they give a variety of cackles, caws and hoots. We have yet to hear the classic ‘who-cooks-for-you, who-cooks-for-you-all’ call. The only other owl we have heard is a Great Horned Owl, on just one occassion.

Although less common, we do hear other bird species. This past week, we have been hearing Common Loons calling from Lake Huron, which is ~1/4 mile away. This coincides with the peak numbers that Adam, MSRW’s waterbird counter, has been recording. And sometimes the local Canada Geese are disturbed by something and start calling. We also have heard coyotes on occasion, not particularly close. And the other night we were startled by an outburst of snarls and growls by the nets, which seemed to be a couple of squabbling racoons.

In the dark, of course, we can’t see much. But we do regularly pick up the reflection of eyes in the forest. On the ground, we see little rodents that briefly face us before scurrying into their burrows. Most of the action is at the bird feeder by the banding area. Flying Squirrels are regulars. At first they were very skittish but now don’t really mind our lights. As of late, a racoon has shown up too.

The rains and warmer weather has caused the slugs to come out. By our trailer we have quite the slugfest at night. We have the nocturnal Big Grey or Leopard slug, the second largest land slug in the world. Unfortunately it is a non-native species but apparently is not harmful to crops or gardens. In the morning they crawl back to the park admin building where they live in the cracks in the foundation.

Season Totals (March 15 through May 2):

Northern Saw-whet Owl: 104 (94 new, 10 recaptures)

Barred Owl: 1

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