i was spring-loaded.
after 6 hours of sleep, i injected a bowl of oatmeal and then made for the freshly groomed trails of the sugarbush…in what turned out to be one of the best 22 km skis i’ve had this winter.
perfect grooming more than makes up for imperfect technique.
saturday was to be the night of the supermoon. the forecast said “a good night for owling.” except it really said “go with your hunches nocturnal sage, because the weather will be dicey tonight.”
i like the structure and routine of owling. i know the pacing of a survey day, the drive time to the starting point and when the crepuscular magic will be most inticing…when the owls are getting busy, they are getting busy well before dark.
late in the afternoon, a thin wisp of clouds obscured the supersun and the winds picked up. i anxiously paged through the nws forescast and the trend, according to my simian interpretation, suggested it might not be a good night for early season owling.
from the window, i watched spindly spruce announce the bullying arrival of a low pressure system and decided to forego my supermoon survey. it wasn’t a tough decision, but points out how quickly the ambience of owling can change.
some of my best nights of owl observation have occurred during the worst weather. nesting goes on because the perfect strigidaen storm of hormones and habitat and prey availability converge during march and april. but, experiencing the perfect storm means i first need to find the owls. surveys are where i do just that.
without surveys, i wouldn’t have been able to sit beneath a boreal owl cavity tree in 1992 in 30 mph winds, while observing a quick, 4 second bout of owl copulation, then painfully realizing it was only 10 seconds less than my best effort. in 1995, i lay in my sleeping bag during a heavy snowfall and watched 4 hours of owl magic, even though that included nearly 3.97 hours of nothing happening (think ice fishing). that same night, a browsing snowshoe hare hopped over my feet on its quest for the perfect hazel bud. only when i moved was it aware that a dashing, bipedal predator could have had it for supper.
nocturnal owl behavior is fascinating because one needs to see and hear it repeatedly to understand “when i hear this…the owls do this…” these aren’t your ostentatious, diurnal species of the oak savannah with their haughty bright colors and extravagant flights and hours of slow-motion video to review. no, these are cryptically plumed silhouettes, relying on sound and often moving without the observer knowing they have done so.
they represent the perfect challenge during nights that are often, less-than perfect.