fact: owling is 95 percent determination and 5 percent luck. the other 5 percent is beer.
there i was on the morning side of midnight, counting down the stops until i made the long drive back to my humble owlman abode, when the long-eared started in. only it wasn’t the hooting usually associated with one of my favorite “good” owls, it was its alarm call…which is akin to pulling a cat’s tail at the very moment it is tossed into the bathtub.
not that i’ve ever done that.
but what was doubly rewarding was that the long-eared’s alarm call was being directed at another long-eared, whose alarm call was directed at the first long-eared. cacophony met its match at the top of two lofty white pines last night, and i was there to witness it.
…a fitting ending to a night that was busy and absolutely invigorating.
my decision to trek up to the end of the gunflint trail was a good one. i was amply prepared with caffeine and chocolate and other non-nutritive foodstuffs and was willing to sacrifice much-needed beauty rest to fulfill my life quest of doing nothing other than driving around in the woods by myself, listening for owls and eating chocolate.
even before crossing nocturnal paths with the cantankerous long-eareds, i listened to the calls and songs of 11 saw-whets, 3 barreds, and get this….56 woodcock. there were so many hormonally charged woodcock that i still feel dirty today.
peenting then dizzying flights of fancy. the male woodcock has got it all going on.
when you think about it, were the woodcock (aka “timberdoodle”) a diurnal species, the sound created by air displaced by their wings would have no function. but, because woodcock courtship occurs during diminished light, the sound is an important adjunct to the display flight. combined, the female woodcocks know exactly where the horny male woodcock are.
last night, so did i and gosh…that sounded dirty.
far and away, it was my biggest woodcock night in 25 years. not surprising was that most of the birds were tallied in the stark landscape left by the 1999 windstorm and the 2006 cavity lake and 2007 ham lake fires. young, rejuvenating forests with an open canopy. they’ve got woodcock written all over them.
hooray for the woodcock. hooray for the owls. hooray for determination, luck, and beer.