Posted by: atowhee | March 1, 2021


After going over all the Long-eared Owl records in eBird, we should all realize the current Ankeny NWR wintering flock is highly
unusual for the Willamette Valley. From Portland south through the Eugene area there are altogether less than fifty different LEO sightings. Before this event at Ankeny, the highest number of LEOs ever reported to eBird in the Willamette Valley: 3. That was one time, at Baskett Slough in 1994! So far the highest count reported on the Ankeny congress has been seven* in eBird, while most observers have reported four or more. Further, none of the previous LEO sightings in our area were repeated day after day. Many were one-time-only, of a single bird. The first eBird account for the current Ankeny owl fest was on February 5th. We are now nearing the one-month anniversary. The lone previous eBird report of LEO at Ankeny was a singleton in 2019.

*Emailed updates: Sylvia Maulding reports she and a companion saw 8 birds there on Feb. 8. Nagi Aboulenein says he’s heard first-hand reports as high as 11. Mark Nikas sent me this note; “There was a sizable winter Long-eared Owl roost on Pigeon Butte at WL Finley NWR in the 80’s-90’s.

Sometime later Mark added this detailed clarification:I was living out of state in the 80’s but was an OFO member and recall reading about the Finley roost in Oregon Birds.  I tried digging out those old reports from OB but gave up after a while.  It would be nice to be able to easily  do text searches on the whole run of the journal.  
I dug out Hendrik’s old Birds of Benton County manuscript and pasted the LEOW entry below.

Long-eared Owl (•?)   Asio otus This enigmatic species occurs as an uncommon winter visitor and possibly as a rare resident in dense stands of conifers or deciduous trees, mostly at low to moderate elevations. It is best known for its winter roosts in dense woodlands. From 1971 to 1977, a roost was reported from Finley NWR with a maximum of 13 birds counted in November 1973. Since 1986, another roost site has been reported at E. E. Wilson WA in a dense ash swale, with up to six birds present in 1989. Roost sites are usually occupied from early November until March. There are very few summer reports, but it is possible that this secretive species has nested in the county at least occasionally. One was near Finley NWR as late a April 19, 1975 (J. Annear, Ch 4(9)), and one was found in McDonald Forest on June 8, 1987 (D. Swanson, Ch 16(10)).
This entry only mentions the 70’s for the Finley roost so maybe I was dreaming about 80’s sightings.  After joining OFO in the 80’s I ordered back issues of OB so maybe I was reading about the 70’s roost in the 80’s.  I’m easily confused.

Need to count those Ankenyites…waders anyone? Just kidding, don’t want to disturb them.

A few locations in our area have had recurring sightings, but never frequent. Hagg Lake has records of one owl in 1984-84-85-91-93, then 2000 and 2004. E. E. Wilson had a run of 1989, 1994-5-6. There have been a few single sightings in the Eugene but none were repeated at a later date.

Finally, I picked up the official printed checklist for the Willamette Valley NWR Complex (copyright 2016 before any Ankeny records) lists LEO as “rare” in Finley and Baskett Slough, never seen at Ankeny.
I was at owl roost today with Peter Thiemann from Jackson County, He is co-author and photographer for our book on the Great Gray Owls. He was ecstatic to get sunlit shots of the loafing owls. Today we saw four different LEOs. They were difficult to photograph mid-day–bright sun right behind them, many twigs and branches in the way. I finally got a good shot from the level of the lower railing of the boardwalk, one owl just a couple feet above the standing water.

Here’s what their roosting thicket is like:

Here’s what the owls look like when a real photographer gets a shot…this one from Philippe Pessereau of McMinnville:

A fine side-show, complete with squeaking sound-effects was put on by a pair of Red-breasted Sapsuckers right beside the boardwalk. What a show–I may never need to take another sapsucker picture.

It’s definitely the season courtship and pairing. Just in the past two days I’ve seen a Downy pair together. Two Red-breasted Nuthatches came into out garden today as a pair. Then the sapsucker duo. One other sure sign of the season. At Ankeny I saw my first reptile of 2021:


  1. […] preening his frontal feathers. Photography light is best in early morning and later afternoon.In yesterday’s blog I took a look at what records we have, or lack, on previous visitations by…After today you must admit, the ears have […]

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