June 15th, 2019: Young owls in Bellingham
My wife and I headed down to Bellingham for the day today. We had some U.S. errands to run, but we found time to visit the Bellingham Cider Company, which has a great brunch and several interesting ciders that are nice and dry.
We also had a chance for a quick walk around Whatcom Falls Park on the east side of Bellingham. On our way through the park, I heard pretty what we expected. The soundscape was dominated by Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Swainson’s Thrush, Black-capped and Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Song Sparrow, and Spotted Towhee (eBird list).
We also came across decent numbers of Orange-crowned and especially Wilson’s Warblers (very good, dense riparian habitat for the latter).
The surprise came in the form of “kssss-ship” begging calls from young Barred Owls. It took a while to locate them and it was my wife who spotted the two fledged young high up in the trees just off the trail.
We couldn’t find the adult(s) anywhere today and the fledglings we saw were already flighted. Hard to imagine the adults could have been napping somewhere with all the begging going on. I expected to see one like the one below: trying to sleep, but clearly awake. I was actually lucky enough to be able to watch much of the nesting process and check in on a family in Northfield, MN this past spring.
These owls do a lot of damage in Spotted Owl habitats out west (where they are culled). Areas that used to be denser–and thus good for Spotted Owls–have since been thinned with logging, turning them into better habitat for the bigger Barred Owls that move in and actually prey on the Spotteds. Despite all this, and the fact that Barred Owls are the most common owls anywhere that I’ve lived, I still love to see them.
Owls have long been associated with bad luck in Europe, where they still represent evil in several countries and cultures. But out here, everyone seems to love an owl!