by Jamie Bogart, Lloyd Center Research Associate
The Lloyd Center, on two evenings in March, held a Full Moon and Spring Equinox Owl Prowl. These outings offer a glimpse at popular celestial events, and encounters with elusive wildlife. This year the events were held on March 18 and 21 respectively, with back-to-back prowls ensuring two options to experience a similar landscape, and with the events held in the latter half of March, hope that spring warmth would occur. After an initial glimpse at Koko, the Center’s resident Screech Owl, near sunset, we set out into the forest.
On the first event, the scheduled moonrise was timed perfectly so that we could “awaken” the local Barred Owl pair with initial taped calls, then watch along the Lloyd Woods trail to see the moon rise over Little River. The “Full Worm Moon”, so named for the thawing of the land when worms surface, rose a brilliant orange, and the iconic worm-eating twilight bird, the American Woodcock, could be heard to the west, as if twittering in celebration. As the group of 16 looked on, one participant also pointed out the NASA International Space Station, which coincidentally was above us on this night.
While we were watching the moon, the Barred Owls finally chimed in, as both the loud yelp calls and “who-cooks-for-you” song could be heard in a duet of what was likely the local pair of owls nesting on or near the property. We swiftly began the walk back to the main trail system across the road to elicit more callbacks and hopefully get a look. On the warmest day and evening of the year thus far, a loud wood frog chorus could be heard in our Red Maple Swamp, a welcome sound as we waited to hear the owls. Both birds yelped again from closer range but remained concealed and out of sight.
Three nights later (one day after the equinox), March lived up to its reputation. The cold of winter had returned on a blustery day, with some concern as to whether windy conditions would keep the owls subdued. A smaller group of eight however, was bundled up and eager for a chance to hear and see an owl. Without the moon to chase as an opening act, and with the marginal conditions, we got straight to the task of owling and played the recorded calls. The winds died down considerably, increasing our hopes for an encounter.
We took a wide loop on the west side of the property and added Great Horned Owl and Screech Owl calls, both species also nesting nearby. Although neither responded, the Barrel Owls gave a repeat performance eerily similar to a few nights ago. Just as we had crossed the road to Lloyd Woods, the first Barred called, and we did a quick U-turn back to the main property. The closest owl quickly went silent, but the furthest one called multiple times thereafter. Although again neither owl was seen, this group like the other was awed just by the loud raucous calls, and gained renewed respect “Wise Old Owl”.
The sideshow was quieter than the first event with only a few wood frogs heard from the swamp, and some White-tailed Deer passing through, their white tails barely visible through the darkness. From the lower lot as we called it a night, we again were treated to celestial phenomena in the form of a sensational starlit sky, complete with constellations and a shooting star, the perfect final stop before we called it a night.