Posted by: atowhee | October 28, 2019

CLACKAMAS COUNTY GREAT GRAY OWL

Here is a report of Great Gray sighting at Wilhoit Spring Park south of Molalla.  I had surmised the small meadow in that park would be attractive for a hunting GGO if there were any in the area. A long-time resident next to the park, however, had never seen or heard one.  Now that has changed. Deborah has her GGO sighting near her home. This is some confirmation for the proposed northwesterly extension of breeding range as I proposed in a recent article in the Oregon Birding Association magazine.

Here is the report and photos from Bill Bradford & Lora Minty:
“You probably already heard from Deborah at Wilhoit Springs about the Great Gray Owl we found there last Thursday [No, I hadn’t heard]. We owe you thanks for stirring our interest in checking out that area. Thanks for what you’ve written in your blog and the article in Oregon Birds.

“We saw the bird as we were driving up to the open field next to the park entrance, across from Deborah and Steve’s house. When we parked, Deborah came out and we told her about the bird. She saw it with us when it was hunting and perched on a brush pile and in trees on the perimeter of the field. She got Steve and the four of us watched it for quite a while, both through binoculars and through our scope. Eventually, it landed in a tree out of sight. Speculating here, I think it was a first year bird because the bow tie was not very well defined and I saw a little of the head movement I call triangulating that I see more from juvenile owls.

“This was a really big deal for us, having only seen GGOWs near the Spring Creek area of the Blue Mountains a few times. We’ve tried many times in Washington and Oregon without success. Last week we also checked out the Silver Falls area where they’ve been seen in the past, but didn’t have any luck (had nice views of a Northern Pygmy Owl though). So, thank you very much for helping us find this bird.”P1310615P1310630Nice images.
Our Oregon GGOs do not wander far, even in winter.  It is likely this bird was born within 25 miles or less of Wilhoit Springs.  The small meadow is surrounded by some dense, regenerated forest which would be ideal for nesting…good, thick canopy.  The meadow itself is bordered by dense forest and has good perches like fence posts and the downed trunk in the second image.  Also, a small seep spring keeps the meadow damp and would encourage growth of low plants that would feed the voles these birds love to eat, multiple times per day.  This bird was hunting between 1030 and 11 AM, so it had not found enough prey overnight to satiate.

Here is a proposed range map that accompanied my article in Oregon Birds. Without evidence I was hesitant to presume the GGO would nest as low as Wilhoit Springs.  Hunting in the autumn does NOT prove nearby nesting, but this bird may be a hunt we should scout for nesting and courtship when  the time comes.NEW RANGE MAPWhen I wrote a book on the GGO here on the Pacific Slope I was unable to find any confirmed records of the species north of Silver Falls.  Now there are confirmed sightings of an adult southeast of Scotts Mills, two young southeast of Molalla and now this hunting bird at Wilhoit Springs.  In other parts of California and Oregon the birds have been found nesting currently as low in elevation as 1200 feet. I can imagine they once nested in both the Willamette and Sacramento Valleys when oaks dominated the landscape and Native Americans kept the brush burned down.  That would have put them less than 200 feet above sea level in some areas.

 


Responses

  1. Thanks for sending!


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