Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Owl and hawk news

The Master

The little wife
Photos by Bruce Yolton


After years of attendance at owl fly-outs, I know in my bones the level of daylight owls choose for leaving their daytime roosts: not quite dark, but on the way there; more night than day; only enough light left in the day to show post-sunset pink clouds . Everything else gray.

It was 5:55 when I emerged from the subway at Central Park West and 72nd Street on Sunday, but I could tell I was late without looking at my watch. It was getting to be just that exact level of darkness--the fly-out moment. Maybe it had already happened.

I walked quickly down the path through Strawberry Fields, and as I rounded the corner from the West Drive I could see the little group of owl-watchers off in the distance a few blocks to the north. A quick scan with binoculars relieved my anxiety.

Everyone's gaze was fastened on the London Plane tree roost hole. There they were, the faithful owl-watchers, Lee in a funny hat, Bruce peering into his scope, Martha and Fred and Gabriel and a few others I didn't immediately recognize, all facing east, all staring intently at the tear-shaped hole. I made it, I thought happily and broke into a little trot.

I was almost at the owl tree when the scene changed. Though they were standing just as before, suddenly each owler was facing the opposite direction, looking at something in the woods. It was exactly 6 pm. I hadn't exactly missed the fly-out. Just the owl.

* * * * *

Note: Besides the two photos above, the first taken just before the male's take-off, the second a moment afterwards as the female peeked out, perhaps to see where her mate hads flown, Bruce has some astounding photos of the pre- and post-fly-out owls. His series on screech-owl facial expressions will make you laugh.

Also on his website are up-to-the-minute photos of Junior and Charlotte, as well as pictures of Pale Male and Lola sharing [more or less] a rodent dinner.

Here is a link to Bruce's site. Don't miss it.