The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

February 21, 2013

Short-Eared Owl numbers are increasing

By Douglas Domedion
Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — If you are out around east Shelby in the late afternoon or evening you may want to take a look around the area to the south of Fletcher Chapel Road. In recent years there has been some unique Short-eared Owls staying in a section between East Shelby Road and the Sour Springs Road.

 This owl is a endangered species in New York State and is only seen in a few places across the state. The area south of Fletcher Chapel Road, especially on the Posson Road is one of these places where you have a good chance of observing one.

Their numbers are increasing in this particular place every year. In 2011 seven where being seen in this area but that number has risen to 13 this year.

This medium size owl has two short ear tufts on top of it’s head that may be standing up or laying down, unseen. The yellow eyes set off the round beige face with the lower body being white with beige streaks. The wings are large for their body size and when they are perched the wings stick out pass the tail. The under side of the wings are white but have dark markings at the wrist and the primary feather tips. The flying pattern is with irregular wing beats that give it a “flopping” or moth-like flight.

These owls become active before darkness, sometimes by mid-afternoon which makes them much more visible to those who are interested in seeing them. They prefer open areas like grasslands and large open farmlands. These are the type of places they like to hunt by flying low looking for voles and mice often giving a raspy barking type call.

When not flying they like to perch in tree in the open, shrubs, fence posts, cut-off corn stalks and any hay bales that have been left in the fields. They will perch on telephone poles, farm equipment and even on marker posts on the side of the road.

Short-eared Owls like large marshes and grasslands for nesting sites where they nest right on the ground which may be one of the reasons they have been declining across their once large range. In fact six of the thirteen Northeast States, including NYS, has put them on the endangered lists. At the present time the DEC is catching some of these owls to put transmitters on them so they can monitor their activities and learn more about them.

These birds have attracted a lot of attention this year from the avid birder crowd especially on Posson Road. Some weekends will see as many as a dozen vehicles along this road looking, watching for or hoping to get a good photograph of one.

 By remaining in your vehicle your chances of getting a close fly-by are much greater then if you are out of your vehicle. And remember that these areas are all private land and you should act accordingly- no trash left behind and no wandering out into the fields. A few people have been seen going out into the fields to get a better look or photograph and those folks take a good chance of getting reported and arrested for trespassing or harassing an endangered species.

If you don’t spot any owls on Posson Road you may want to “patrol” the South Woods Road or the Sour Springs Road (both west of Posson). Although mostly seen on the Posson Road these other roads have also had some reports of owls. Sometimes they disappear for a while, maybe checking out new hunting grounds, so don’t give up if you don’t spot them the first time out.

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Our local eagles are getting ready for the up coming nesting season and should be producing some eggs in March. Right now they are repairing their nests and it is a good time to see them hauling sticks to the nests. The best place to observe this is at the Cayuga Pool Overlook on the INWR along Route 77. Another nest site where they can be observed at is on the New York State Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Area by the fire tower on the Albion Road.

The Holley Squirrel Slam (a great fund raising event for the Holley Fire Department) this last Saturday was a great success. All the “anti-everything” folks did a great job of getting the event advertised which helped get an extra 400 contestants more this year than last (600). Pretty sneaky how the Fire Chief used those “Squirrel Lovers” to get all that free publicity!

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Sportsmen from Orleans County will be joining other firearm owners from across the state Feb. 28 in Albany to protest Governor Cuomo’s SAFE ACT that he passed in the middle of the night with virtually no debate.

This will be an all day event and there will be a bus available for anyone who would like to participate (cost $20). This has become a serious threat to our “right to bear arms” that could lead to further laws to hinder out right to defend ourselves. Contact Chris Rice at (585) 590-6282 for more information.

The Great Outdoors is an interactive forum for nature lovers of all kinds. Local sportsmen and women can call to share their reports of trophies bagged, good hunting and fishing grounds, odd sightings and sportsman’s club activities. Photos are accepted. To get sportsman’s news and info into The Great Outdoors, call Doug Domedion at (585) 798-4022 or e-mail him at woodduck2020@yahoo.com.