Date: Wed, 5 May 2004 19:35:20 -0400
Reply-To: Swillis <swillis@WAYXCABLE.COM>
Sender: Georgia Birders Online <GABO-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
From: Swillis <swillis@WAYXCABLE.COM>
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Neat owl stories lately!! Can't ever have enough of those, can we?
Here's my strangest one. Back in the 1980's one Winter I was traveling
by boat down the Suwannee Canal in the eastern Okefenokee Swamp during a
on-&-off rainy day. I happened to see a Great Horned Owl sitting in a
tree along the canal at a distance but things looked "strange". As I got
closer, I could see that it was eating an Anhinga!!! The tail of the
Anhinga was bent up at an angle, and it appeared that the owl was eating
the head & throat first. I did get a few pictures of the birds, but
didn't have a long lens. I have always wondered how the owl caught the
Anhinga--was it drying its wings & couldn't fly well yet? What made the
owl decide this would be a good meal, considering how skinny the "Water
Turkeys" are? I have read where they will eat Great Blue Herons &
In reference to owls, in late April & this week in May the Barred Owls
have been very active. I have heard one calling several times during
both the day and wee hours of the morning at my house here in Waycross
on Pineview Dr. which has a canal (former creek) behind it. On 4/11 one
called at 2 a.m.; on 5/1 two did their usual calls during the morning
before lunch (overcast day) but then broke into a short "monkey call";
and on 5/3 one called at 3 a.m. (you can probably tell I've been a
"night owl" lately myself!).
Then with this rain, some are coming onto the roads for the frogs &
toads that are hopping about. On 4/26 myself & June LaRoque from our
Okefenokee Bird Club went to get one with a broken wing from a lady in
Waycross who had found it a few days earlier on an area road. She had
planned to keep it & wanted to know how to take care of it. I finally
managed to persuade her to let me take it to Emmy Minor's Sanctuary on
the Sapelo in McIntosh Co. after agreeing to sign a receipt for the bird
(!). Interestingly, it was quite tame.
We arrived after dark at Emmy's in a light rain. While taking the little
road south of Pine Harbor, there were frogs & toads everywhere on the
wet pavement. We stopped the car, left the headlights shining, & tried
to catch some for the owl. Easier said than done. I'm sure you can
picture it---everytime I leaned down to catch one, away it would hop. We
got the silly giggles as we could just imagine what the neighbors would
think if they saw this activity. We finally got a few by tossing a towel
over them, and then left the bird at the sanctuary. I was later told by
the staff that this was an old injury for the bird & that somehow it had
been managing to survive quite well despite the injury. Amazing.
On 4/27 while I was returning from the Okefenokee Swamp below Folkston,
I found a dead Barred Owl on the roadside in the countryside in Charlton
Co. Again, probably looking for frogs, their favorite food down here.
And a little farther down one called from a creek along Paxton Rd near
there at dusk.
I thought this was a neat sighting by an unknown visitor to the
Okefenokee N.W.R. (East Entrance) as recorded in the Wildlife
Observation Log for 4/25/04: "Barred Owl, near b'wk tower-bathing,
preening in water". BTW, they have smaller feet than some of the other
large owls and are known to wade into water to catch crayfish.
In the 1970's when I worked at the Okefenokee Swamp Park below Waycross,
we would often find the birds standing on the ground after an afternoon
shower next to one of the little inlets by the buildings where the frogs
and toads were calling. A swamper friend of mine had said that whenever
we would find a collection of the remains of several larger frogs on the
grass in the mornings, that it was from the owls the night before. BTW,
our most common large frog in the Okefenokee Swamp is the Pig Frog.
(yes, it does grunt!). The Barred Owls also like to hang out at the
alligator holes for the frogs & stuff that rely on this "deeper" water
source. So check out those spots along the boardwalk at the eastern
entrance (especially at the first shelter). I often find Southern
Leopard Frogs here too.
Oh, for those who are interested in a chance to see various owls down
here...The Okefenokee N.W.R. (East Entrance below Folkston) is doing
monthly Night Owl Prowls. They take you out to the Owl's Roost Tower at
the end of the Swamp Island Drive for a sunset view followed by calling
(legally) for owls, rails, etc. The Okefenokee Adventures concessionaire
is also offering sunset/night boat tours to a wading bird roost more
often, and Okefenokee Pastimes (campground on Hwy #121 opposite the
refuge entrance road) is doing night time & full moon paddles on the St.
Marys River too. Always check out the lovely country roads in Charlton
Co. of Spanish Creek Rd (paved)/Prospect Rd (dirt) which allows you a
more "nature-filled" route between U.S. #1 and Hwy #121 & west of
Folkston as it provides a wonderful mix of farmlands, overgrown fields,
creeks, swampy sections, pinelands, oak areas, etc.
Before too long, at Laura S. Walker State Park below Waycross there will
also be some Summertime evening watches at the Wildlife Observation Deck
at the end of the relatively-new Lakeshore Trail (opposite the golf
course & next to a Primitive Campground where you can walk in at the
gate if it's locked). At other times just hike in yourself. There's a
bird roost/developing rookery beside it too.
Well, better quit. More stories to come later from this busy Spring.
Sorry to be so behind in reporting. Take care.
Waycross, Ware Co., GA
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