Thursday, 1 March 2007

Owling in the Rain

After the Snowy Owl incident I had decided to also show some good will and improve my relationship towards owls, trying to shift from non-existent to peaceful coexistence. More precisely, I came up with that idea, a little citizen science project:
I had planned to check (and count) as many of the conifers around Ann Arbor as possible and register all the owls I see, then use Google Earth to count all the conifers in Washtenaw County and calculate the total number of owls. Pretty smart, as you'll surely agree.
So while out hunting for groceries to the North of town today, I went to Deer Hill again, because that is a fabulous place for conifers and thus was bound to hold a fabulous amount of owls, especially with Long-eared Owls supposedly on the move.
I have - I must confess - encountered a slight problem with my little citizen science project: a total lack of owls. Well, on the one hand I don't mind having and easy go at doing the maths but then again, what good is using aerial photography to count all the conifers when there's no owls to include in the calculation?
So off I went to the bus and off I got at Deer Hill. Strangely, going to Deer Hill to look for owls sounded like such a good plan at the apartment, but now that I was outside, the part that made this plan look so good seemed to be missing. Maybe it had something to do with the sleet and icy rain that came down heavily, maybe with the fact that each time I looked up into a tree, the wind shook a gallon of icicles and water drops out of a branch and right into my face or maybe it was the fact that an owl's white-wash is so hard to spot in the snow, but I somehow had the impression I was in perfect harmony with the sky above in being not very bright standing out there in the rain and staring at empty trees.
OK, I have to back off a little here: I did find a Blue Jay and two squirrels and had two Mallards flying over and an American Crow nearby.
I eventually decided to forget about the owls and go for some groceries. They are much more dependable in their occurrence and easy to find as well, and their ecological attachment to heated malls was another advantage. I only wish Eastern Screech-Owls would feed on shredded cheddar.


Anonymous said...

you can still count the number of trees in Washtenaw county, and, from your number you checked, find an upper limit (suppose you were not lucky and the owl is on the next tree you were going to check) of the owl density

Is it not great? You can still learn about owls by NOT watching them!

Cant' wait for the spring....


Larry said...

Everyone has one of those days-I was fired up with a day off today and a pair of new hiking boots.-After a few blasts of arctic wind, I turned around and went out for breakfast instead.-I know how many trees are in Washtenaw County but unless you're a level 7 ,I can't divulge that information.

Jochen said...

What makes birding reach far beyond the realms of human comprehension is the fact that I still enjoyed those 15 minutes out in the snow and rain.
And I wouldn't even consider me completely insane.

Someone told me today where I might find a Screech Owl.
Ha, just some time off work is all I need, come rain or high water, that owl's mine!!
I might however give up on the one part of my citizen science project that was connected to counting trees, I have decided to count Sprague's Pipits in Michigan instead. Wait, if I started counting gras tufts and then calculated ...