Hello All. I have not posted much on this site for quite a while but I had a interesting couple of encounters, one with homo sapiens and another with an owl this evening.
I was nearly at the end of walking the dog tonight when she lunged into a small field close to the Moncton Coliseum with a growl. Since it was dark I couldn't make out what she was after until I shone my flashlight at a rabbit huddled in the field. It was approximately 6 feet from the road and was moving away, but not in the typical rush a rabbit hops away from a barking dog with. The dog was no help in calming the rabbit, and I was certainly no help calming the dog, so I brought her home with the idea that I would be able return and make sure the rabbit had not been injured by a car or animal.
Within 5 minutes I had returned and saw what I thought was the outline of the rabbit sitting very tall in the same field...until I turned on my flashlight. The unfortunate rabbit was underneath a good sized owl, who decided to move to a safer place after having been exposed by my light beam. As I went into the field and found the rabbit had 'passed on to a better place', a man was walking briskly along the sidewalk. Thinking that I should explain my standing in a field alone with a flashlight, I enthusiastically shared with him that I had just seen a rabbit being hunted and killed by an owl in the field. He did not seem to be overly impressed by my observation and hurried along muttering a rushed 'cool'.
I decided to stick around for a while hoping the owl would come back for its prey. Perhaps ten minutes later a murder of crows that were roosting close by for the night exploded into very loud calls. Looking down the street the reason became obvious: the owl had found another victim, which appeared to be one of the crows, and it was sitting in the middle of the street enjoying its latest success. I was taking in this rare spectacle when the same gentleman I had spoken to earlier rounded the bend walking in the opposite direction at the same brisk pace.... and toward the owl on the street. This time the owl was able to carry its prey away as it flew heavily into the darkness. Thinking the man had recognized the owl and it's prey this time ( he was only about 20m away from the owl when it took off) I asked him if he had seen the owl. His pace picked up, he didn't say a word and looked straight ahead. He was clearly more concerned about the strange man 'hanging around in the dark' than the amazing display of nature that was unfolding in front of him. I do not think I added an enthusiastic birder tonight!
Seeing the owl twice in one night while hunting was an amazing experience. I suspect that it was a barred owl although it was way too dark to identify it properly, even with binoculars, and I did not want to disturb it with my flashlight as second time. I was surprised that it was hunting crows, but I suppose it has a huge advantage over most other creatures with its excellent night vision and hearing. In fact I think that the owl was probably on the ground when I was walking the dog, and left the scene undetected.
Has anyone else had similar experiences spotting this type of hunting behaviour by owls before? Are crows ordinarily part of the owl 'menu'?
Sounds like you encountered a Great Horned Owl, murder of crows is always a great compass for owls and raptors. The first experience I had with a Great Horned was when I was a kid, my dad and I were out cross country skiing towards dusk when this huge bird quietly coasted over us and down the trail to land on another branch. My dad told me it was a Great Horned Owl and that it was likely hunting anything that tried to cross the ski trail. At the time all I could think was "boy am I glad I'm with dad or I could have been it's supper!"
Now I purposely go to places hoping they will glide through the trees over top of me.
The owl probably wouldn't tackle you but I remember a case yea many years ago where a Great Horned Owl managed to grab a rabbit from a young fellow running his snare line. Kind of scared the kid.
Interesting...A Great Horned Owl never occurred to me. That would be a lifer for me. I wish I had a photo of some sort. All I do have is a photo of a feather that was left at the 'scene of the crime' the next morning. I'll post it just in case it's identifiable. X-country ski trails are an excellent place to spot the odd raptor in winter. I had a barred owl hunting along the Dieppe x-country ski-trail. It was not particularly shy as it stuck around for about a half hour 6-10 feet to the side of the trail and no more than 10 feet above ground.
Our dog is a little larger than a rabbit, so she was lucky not to have been chosen as a meal that night given who was lurking in the dark!
That certainly looks to me like a body feather from a GH Owl
if they are squawking up a storm, usually it's because something has them upset. Sometimes you see them squawking and flying in and around a tree, and when you look you find a bird of Prey. I've seen them all upset in an area and the culprit a fox down on the ground (cause a flying fox isn't likely to be seen...)
So ya, if the crows seem upset , it's a good indicator of something interesting, but really all birds mob birds of prey.