August 9, 2022

In Search of Superb Owls

Rehoboth Ramblings

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 Like many people, I enjoyed the typo in which the words “Super Bowl” got turned into “Superb Owl”. My interest in birds is much greater than my interest in football (which is zero), though I was rooting for Cincinnati, where I spent a large chunk of my young adult years. Ah well. The great horned owl that I’ve heard in recent winters seems to have moved along, perhaps to the golf course nearby. Last year his calls were so loud and close that I almost expected him to ring the front door bell.

Other bird news this winter is about a pair of visitors from the North, two snowy owls,   visiting Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge in Middletown and getting lots of local press. Since the parking lot at Sachuest is pretty small, it was impossible to find a place to park on Presidents Day, not surprising but irritating, since the little auxiliary lot was closed off too. I guess they thought too many people would disturb the owls.

Fortunately, the parking lot at nearby Second Beach is huge and uncrowded in late winter, making the beach a great place for a walk even if there were no owls to see, just a couple of surfers in wetsuits. The spires of St. George’s in the near distance make for a scenic, almost English-looking backdrop to the sea. 

Nor did I drop everything to rush to Dighton Rock to see the Steller’s sea eagle on its unexpected and brief visit there in December. Last I heard, this avian celebrity, a native of northern Japan and the coast of Russia, was hanging out around Reid State Park in Maine. So far from its home, does the bird wonder “how did I get here?” The photos showed a very impressive and massive bird, much bigger than the bald eagles that were also in one of the pictures. The best view I’ve had of a bald eagle was on a trip to Ohio a few years ago when we encountered one making a meal out of roadkill on a country road, not its most dignified pose.

Right now, before yet another dreaded snowstorm, there is a flock of robins hopping around in the backyard with their feathers all fluffed up. I suppose it’s pointless to open the window and call out, “I told you to go south for the winter!” The bird feeders have been very popular with a variety of birds and I can identify a number of them anyway.

One day I did a double-take when I noticed something large perched on the bird feeder pole and saw that it was the hawk that has staked out territory in this neighborhood. He or she apparently thinks the bird feeder is some sort of McDonald’s fly-through for raptors. Talk about fast food! We believe it’s a red-shouldered hawk from its appearance and screechy calls. Not sure why a raptor would make such a constant racket. Doesn’t it warn off its prey?

I finally bought a squirrel-proof bird feeder and it seems to work. It’s a slightly complicated feeder called “Squirrel Buster” (with a cartoon on the box of squirrel shedding a tear). The tube for bird seed is covered by metal mesh, which the instructions refer to in rather morbid manner as a “shroud.” It is designed so that if something heavy, i.e. a squirrel, tries to perch on it, the casing comes down and closes up the feeding portals and the squirrel gives up. Being a softie, I still put out some food for the squirrels, but we seem to have reached a détente on who is eating what and where.

As any serious birder can tell, I am not a serious birder, just someone who enjoys watching birds. This year maybe we’ll get over sooner to the heron rookery in the wetlands behind the fence at the Home Depot in Seekonk. We were a little late learning about this popular location for bird-watching in early spring.

Right now there appears to be a pair of bluebirds checking out the bird house at the edge of the yard. It’s a bit much to hope that they are the proverbial bluebirds of happiness, but we could all use some of that right now. At any rate, nesting birds are a happy sign of spring to come.

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