On May 25, 2013 a group of people conducting point counts on the Davis Mountains Preserve, Jeff Davis County went owling on the preserve. We found a cooperative Common Poorwill on the road (and had to stop short to avoid it), and while watching this diminutive nightjar we saw a medium-sized owl in flight. The owl landed behind some trees up ahead, but not visible (at least from where the lead car stopped). We pulled up to see the owl, and it flew directly over the lead vehicle. It was Rich Kostecke who first identified it as a Long-eared Owl! A great find for May in the Davis Mountains - and a source of much discussion, as the late date made me suspect it could be nesting.
The next day, I was conducting point counts in the area where we had seen the Long-eared Owl, and my attention was drawn to a suspicious looking feather in a vast stick nest. It looked suspiciously like the ear of a Long-eared Owl... but it was not possible to see into the nest from the point. I finished my points, and found a place where I could see into the nest on the way back. I was extremely pleased to see a Long-eared Owl looking at me, and I could see the head of a chick in the nest too! Sorry, the chick isn't visible in the photo below - a digi pic, but still, you can see how obvious the bird on the nest is...
pic on the TNC Texas Facebook page.
- Were the owls always nesting here, but not detected? Hard to believe since the area is covered by owling efforts by researchers and on open weekends. The nests were much easier to see with the dead trees from the pine beetles and fires, but they were easily accessed compared to much of the preserve.
- Did the owls move in after the fires opened up the forest? If so, from where? Did they nest in the riparian corridors along Limpia Creek? Did they stay after wintering in the area, finding lots of prey and good conditions?
- July 12-14 - Open Weekend
- August 16-18 - Open Weekend
- October 19 - Open Day
- December 7 & 14 - Open Day