Monday, November 2, 2020

How To Talk About Owls Without Talking About Them

[This Short-eared Owl flew in off the ocean at the South Cape May Meadows on November 5, 2011. This Wednesday is November 4, and conditions the night before look perfect for owl migration. Hmmmm...]

If I were me, I would look for migrant owls holed up for the day this Wednesday. Thinking Barn, Long-eared, Short-eared and Northern Saw-Whet Owls. Where? Conifer trees roughly from the Mullica River to Cape May Point, NJ. Except Short-eareds, look for them flying around somewhere in the morning, or sitting on a beach or something. If you find any owls, tell no one.

Is that vague enough?

Birders get all bent into pretzel shapes about other birders harassing owls. I guess they should. I do. People get too close, owls are disturbed, burn energy and risk being eaten while they find somewhere else to hang for the day.

But. What if some of that owl protecting energy and all's those righteous 0's and 1's were spent instead on, I don't know, habitat protection? Environmental activism? Taking kids birding? Talking about habitat loss and rodenticides and car collisions and other MUCH more significant factors to an owl's well being? Walking and cycling more, driving less?

I don't want to see any bird harmed unless someone or some native predator is going to eat it. But do birders disturbing owls affect owls at the population level? No, they do not. Again, don't tell people where owls are, don't flush owls from roosts while trying to get a better look or photo. But think about other places to spend some of that energy.


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