Friday, August 25, 2006

A-scouting we will go!

My car arrived at Julian's one four-way intersection about 7:10 a.m. The town appeared devoid of humans. Then a man appeared with a broomstick and a dustpan in hand, sweeping up the sidewalks and parking spots.

John's truck soon appeared. After I clambered onto the bench seat, we headed south to William Heise County Park in search of Spotted Owl. The species appears on the wish list of John's upcoming client, so we were confirming its presence.

Acorn Woodpeckers called overhead left and right, and Pygmy Nuthatches made their hidden presence known as we walked down the trail. John pished in an Orange-crowned Warbler, and an Oak Titmouse made an appearance.

After ambling through the woods, John made a couple owl calls... nothing in return. We looked up into the oak trees but couldn't see our quarry.

John uttered his magic phrase, and then an owl called. It lured us further into the woods, seeming to move away and prompting us to billygoat on the slopes of a gully.

Dark-eyed Juncos and a really close Turkey Vulture offered some visual rewards for our bushwhacking efforts, but the now-silent owl remained hidden. We came down the hill, and then John spied the back of the roosting bird of prey.

What a good-looking bird, even from the rear. I loved its plumage pattern. The fluffy, chubby owl had big yellow feet, the feet appearing more vibrant than the pale, thin slash of a beak. John estimated that the owl was a juvenile, which would explain why its call sounded more raspy than like a whistle.

The owl's body shape reminded me of that childhood game where you press your cheeks forward with the heels of your hands and say, "Hi. My name is Chubba." When I demonstrated it for John, he looked at me like I was a freak. OK, moving on...

On the way back to the truck, we saw deer, Lesser Goldfinch, Pacific-slope Flycatcher and Mountain Chickadee. I got a kick out of watching the latter glean insects in an oak tree.

(Part 2 will appear later. It's time to start the weekend!)

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