With the cooler temperatures, food is harder to find for our winged friends and barred owls can be seen out hunting during the day.
During the Lunenburg Christmas Bird Count, Dec. 30, barred owls were sighted in five out of 13 routes during the day. More than in any other year of the count. On Jan. 8 in Petite Riviere, I was privileged to see one of these owls out in the open, up close and personal. It just ignored me, intent on looking for food.
Nova Scotia has more barred owls per kilometer than any other province in Canada. The barred owl is 42.5 to 60 cm long with a wingspread of 100 to 125 cm. They are large, grey-brown barred and spotted with buff, dark brown and white. The head is puffy and rounded and there are large brown eyes.
The barred owl eats mostly mice of many species and also chipmunks, red, gray and flying squirrels, minks, opossums, weasels, rabbits, shrews, bats, doves, grouse, quail, small owls, purple gallinules, flickers, kingfishers, crows, jays, cardinals and other birds, as well as frogs, crayfishes, lizards, small snakes, snails, salamanders and fiddler crabs. Sometimes they will wade into water to catch fish. They will also eat grasshoppers, crickets, large beetles, and spiders.
On Dec. 27, Eric Mills reported seven American coots at the Kingsburg Pond. He also saw a red-throated loon in Lunenburg Dec. 30. Marjorie Zwicker of Auburndale had a yellow-breasted chat. As of Jan. 9, it was still present. Jamie Huskins saw a red-bellied woodpecker in Lunenburg Jan. 2. Back in Auburndale, Marjorie and Gerald Zwicker had 12 evening grosbeaks arrive Jan. 4. It has been a long time since they have seen this species there.
I had a number of reports from Jan. 8 starting with a red-bellied woodpecker in Chester seen by Brad Armstrong. Brad also sighted a broad-winged hawk. Dozens of dark-eyed juncos arrived at his feeders. He has not seen so many in several years. He also reported that a pair of white-breasted nuthatches were collecting nesting materials and putting them into a bird house, which this species has utilized for many years.
Also on Jan. 8, Lise Bell saw a greater yellowlegs and a northern harrier at Crescent Beach. She also reported pine siskins at her feeders on Bush Island and saw a barred owl briefly. On the same day, Eric Mills saw two gadwalls and four double-crested cormorants at the Kingsburg Pond. On Jan. 9, Steven Hiltz reported a brown creeper in First South and he also saw a barred owl flying away from him.
Elsewhere in the province, Steve McGrath saw a palm warbler at St. Peters in Cape Breton Dec. 27. On Dec. 30, Mary Kennedy sighted a great blue heron at the West Lawrencetown Marsh. On Dec. 31, Steve McGrath found an orchard oriole at Glace Bay.
Jan. 1 produced four Barrows goldeneyes for Natalie Barkhouse-Bishop in Bedford and she also sighted an ovenbird and a Lincoln's sparrow at the Fairview Cemetery in Halifax. Andy Horn posted a great egret in Sambro on that day as well. At Miner's Marsh in Kentville, Sarsh Foote spotted a yellow-breasted chat.
Mary Kennedy had one of these birds at the Bisset Lake Trail Jan. 2. On Jan. 5 a tufted duck was found in Lawrencetown by Diane LeBlanc. Gary Poole located a seaside sparrow at the Saltmarsh Trail in Dartmouth also on that day. Three long-billed dowitchers were seen by many observers around that time as well. There were also a number of winter wrens reported from various locations across the province and a greater white-fronted goose showed up at the Berwick Sewage Lagoons.
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