by Jamie Bogart, Lloyd Center Research Associate
On the evening of March 9, a crowd of 23 gathered at the Lloyd Center in hopes of seeing an owl which we’d attempt to lure by use of callback tapes. This particular owl prowl was focused on Barred Owls, given that a pair had nested on the property in recent years. The opportunity to hear and see a large owl at a friendlier hour (Barred Owls may call during daylight hours) and during warmer temperatures than our February mid-winter event is surely a draw. Add in the opportunity to coincide with celestial events such as the spring equinox and a full moon, and the event has gained popularity. Like last year, this full moon owl prowl occurred on a “Supermoon” when the moon is either full or new, is at “Perigee” or at its closest point to earth, and may appear larger and brighter than normal.
Given that a wild owl is obviously no guarantee, and some daylight exists to start this walk, the event started with a showing of “Koko”, our Eastern Screech Owl. Koko continues to be an animal ambassador which cannot survive in the wild due to a handicap. While not as majestic as the much larger Barred Owl, this is our most abundant owl that may never be seen due to its small size, secretive nature, and highly nocturnal habit. The group saw the facial disk, large eyes, and neck mobility for head turning, all of which equip owls for nocturnal behavior. The group also learned that fibrous feathers allow silent flight which aids in hunting, and that screech owls have color phases, the grey phase more common in the northeast, reddish-brown phases in the south.
An initial stroll down to the waterfront pier and up the Old Cart Path allowed for listening to the final chorus of the day of Red-winged Blackbirds, which are abundant near our kettle pond where they nest. The songs of “Red-wings” are a true harbinger of spring in the region. Back at the facility along the driveway, where the owls have been seen in the past, the Barred Owl tapes were played, but no return calls heard. Our next stop was the “Lloyd Woods” across the road, to continue our quest for the Barred, and watch the moon rise over Little River. While last year we saw the moon glistening off the water, this year the walk along the river was perfectly timed for the moonrise, the Supermoon visible for many minutes over the forest horizon, offering superb photographic opportunity. Although we heard a Barred Owl call from back in the lot, the call came from afar, the moon again the highlight of the evening.
On many events, this would be another nice evening, but the owls didn’t show. This walk is unique, however, in also being the last outing before our world changed in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic, the last Lloyd Center nature trek before events were cancelled and we were forced into our respective ways and places of “quarantine”.
Times like these allow for reflection about the purpose of these outings, in this case during the quiet interlude before summer’s craze. While it’s helpful to receive education from naturalists about unique wildlife such as owls, woodcocks, seals and whales, there’s nothing stopping people, even now, from venturing out on their own to view these spectacles. Whether it’s a woodcock dance in a local field, a hooting owl in the forest, a seal along the estuary shore, or on the Cape, a whale close to shore of the open sea, it’s all out there. And using our new expertise on “distance”, we’re poised to remember and protect the critters. Seals in particular shouldn’t be closely approached, as the Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits their disturbance. Seals, while sometimes sick, are often just resting in between feedings and are perfectly healthy.
With no second March prowl as another shot to see an owl, or other nature walks in the near future, some are able to look back fondly on that moon that rose on March 9, and the chance to see it from such a pristine location here at the Lloyd Center. Although no walk is scheduled, another Supermoon incidentally is on tap for April. While we deal with these challenging times, unsure of when normal life will resume, and for those that missed our final March walk, perhaps this serves as a reminder that nature still awaits us all, and that rarely seen Supermoon will soon rise again.