Pocket gophers? And now woodchucks? What is this bird network
coming to? Actually, I'm very glad to see diversification into mammals,
and maybe more taxonomic classes in the future.
An additional note on groundhog (not to be confused with sausage)
distribution: The range dips particularly far south in the western part of
the state. I have seen them south of Rome, and they have been reported
as far south as LaGrange.
And now, back to birds: Yesterday while conducting aerial eagle nest
surveys, Todd Schneider and I had a couple of interesting owl
observations. In a nest that I think was a long-since abandoned eagle
nest high in a big pine on the edge of West Point Lake, we saw something
that was at first unidentifiable. We edged a little closer, and as we finally
recognized a barred owl in incubating position, the bird flushed to reveal
2 eggs. We looked more closely at the eggs, and they appeared to be
owl eggs. I haven't dug deeply into barred owl literature, but neither of us
had heard of barred owls using open nests. Has anyone else?
Also, in Lake Blackshear we saw something unusual in an osprey nest
that was more then 100 yards from the shore and only a few feet off the
water. A closer look revealed a great-horned owl with a couple of
half-grown young. Certainly, great-horned owls often use the nests of
other raptors, including eagles, but the setting seemed unusual. Since
young great-horned owls typically leave the nest before they can fly,
these birds would seem to have little chance of fledging successfully,
unless they swim better than they fly.