2020 Flammulated Owling Kickoff

Flammulated Owl
Our first Flammy on a tour this year on May 18th.

On May 11th the State of Utah opened the highway into our favorite early season owling location, so I decided to get out and see what the habitat looked like and how active the birds were.  I left Salt Lake on the 40-minute drive so that I would arrive just as it was dark enough to start owling.  I drove to the furthest point in the canyon where I typically find owls and stepped out into the cool night's air. American Robins and Hermit Thrushes rang out form the aspen covered hillsides—but more importantly, 3 FLAMMULATED OWLS were calling simultaneously from various directions.  The birds were back and extremely active!

It was still a little lighter than I like to start, the mountain tops to the west highlighted by the distant last rays of daylight faded.  I decided to give it a try and started calling.  A bird bee-lined it past me--the first Flammy of the year.  Continuing to talk the bird made its way back and I spotted it come in to land about 50' away on a dead limb.  I put the light up and got a quick look at the tiny owl before it fluttered off into the dark.  Wanting to give the birds plenty of space, and not harass them, I moved on to my next stop.  

Over the course of the next hour I made 4 more stops, and at each location was greeted by calling Flammulated Owls.  I broadcast at a couple locations and didn't get much in the way of responses, so I just tallied up what I was hearing and kept moving.   At my final stop for the night, there was a very territorial bird who wasted no time in coming in to say hi—it was the 12th Flammy of the night!

Flammulated Owl

Our first cooperative owl of the year!

It was a great start to the year.  The owls were back, active, and responsive.  The only issue was how many people would I be able to share them with this summer due to Covid-19?  Fast forward one week to May 18th and I put together a private tour with a family of 5 to go look for owls.  There were some differences between my usual tours, however... For starters, I didn't provide transportation—instead, I had my clients meet me near where we would go owling, then follow me in their car.  Next, there was to be 6' of space between myself and the group while birding. I could still show them the birds without having to get close.  Third, when we got the owls there would be no congratulatory high-fives or handshakes.  It was to be a hands-off experience.  

With this in mind, we met shortly after sunset and caravanned to the spot I wanted to try for owls.  When we got there it was quiet, but a little windy.  We gave it some time to calm down then started owling.  Right off the bat, we had several birds calling but nothing really responsive.  We have parked about a 1/4 mile away and were going to walk our way back looking for birds along the way.  At our second stop, we tried and didn't get any response—but just as we were starting to walk away  an owl started calling relatively close.  The next thing we knew it had flown in and landed low in an Aspen right next to our group.  Everyone got a nice short look before the bird departed deeper into the forest.  At about the same time, another owl started calling on the other side of the road where we were walking.  We moved that direction, and after a short search, I found the bird perched about 15' up on a dead limb.  This time the bird sat and watched us as we watched it.  For several minutes we enjoyed nice looks as the owl before it took flights and headed back into the forest.  The group was pleased and we called it a night, without having to check any other spots for owls.



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