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2015 Annual Owl Prowl

Text by Betty Michalowski

“That’s my first Snowy this winter!” And that is how the Annual Owl Prowl started for one participant in my car.

But before I continue I need to back up a bit.

Prior to this, participants patiently waited at the Metro parking lot. The group was first asked to carpool so that we would have less cars in our caravan and then some Owl Prowl etiquette was shared.

  1. Do not slam car doors.
  2. Keep chatter to a minimum.
  3. NO! Flash photography.
  4. No flashlights pointed directly at the owl.
  5. All car lights off.
  6. Gather around leader Michael Runtz to hear his explanations.

Upon his arrival, Michael welcomed everyone, re-iterated the instructions, drove his car to the head of the pack and off we went—14 cars carrying 40 participants.

As my car turned on to Van Dusen Drive we saw the Snowy Owl gliding over the field and across White Lake Road. I can imagine the excitement and comments in those lead cars as they first spotted a regal and majestic Snowy Owl. We continued down Van Dusen and got out of the cars in hope of spotting more owls. No owls but a Red Fox.

Back in the cars we travelled left onto White Lake Road.  Immediately the caravan pulled over and people got out. Sitting on a fence post way out in the field was a Snowy Owl. We are pretty sure it was the same one we first spotted.

Northern Saw-whet Owl

This wasn’t the Saw-whet Owl we saw on our prowl, but one our leader photographed on another occasion

We continued to Myer’s Road, known as an area with habitat that supports Northern Saw-whet Owls. Despite being under the weather Michael dug deep and called for this tiny owl. Well they couldn’t tell he was sick! We heard a response and there it was. A Saw-whet flew in over us and into the coniferous tree in front of our group. With Michael’s correct use of a flashlight everyone in the group was able to see this tiny owl. Its call was fierce for such a tiny thing and we were treated to a very strong, lengthy call as it tried to figure out where that other call (Michael’s) was coming from.

We then scouted the back roads around Waba, White Lake and down the Bellamy Road in a determined search for a Barred Owl. We were not successful in hearing or seeing this owl, despite our resolute leader’s persistent tries. And to think other groups use tapes to call the owls in. We have Michael! To hear him call these owls is an awesome experience. How many of you have since tried making that call?

Last owl on the evening’s agenda—Eastern Screech Owl. Off to Pakenham, up by the church, under a street lamp 40 people stood. In the past we have had success at this spot but tonight that was not to be the case.

In all, our Owl Prowl was a fun evening and that is because Michael Runtz made it so. Always the consummate educator, from him we learned that windy conditions are not ideal for owls; the species that are common to our area and their calls and habitats; and the locations in our area where they may be spotted. With that knowledge each one of us could go out and try an owl prowl on our own. And if not, see you again next year!