Email – March 18, 2010 – spring is here, and 2010 atlasing begins!


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March 18, 2010

Recommendations for early-season owling


The Ohio Breeding Bird Atlas II needs your help! Special survey efforts are needed for species not normally encountered during typical days in the field. For example, only a tiny proportion of total hours invested in OBBA2 have occurred at night. Nocturnal survey efforts should focus on priority blocks so that we can compare species distributions with those from Ohio’s first atlas project. To help OBBA2 with its goal of adequately surveying these fascinating birds in priority blocks, please consider some of these useful suggestions:


  1. Great Horned and Barred Owls begin breeding much earlier in the year than most nesting species in Ohio. Survey efforts to detect species like Great Horned Owl can be difficult during the summer months because of decreases in their calling frequency. NOW is the time to get out in the field! We recently changed the safe dates for these two species. Great Horned Owls now have a safe date of December 20th, and Barred Owls are January 15th.
  2. Detecting Great Horned (only 13% of blocks) or Barred Owls (only 11% of blocks) may be as simple as stepping out on your front porch during a calm, moonlit evening. Live in an urban area? No worries…Great Horned Owls are surprisingly common in urban woodlots, especially those with older trees.
  3. Where should you look? Chances are good that at least two owl species reside in the atlas block that you survey or live in. Eastern Screech-Owls may be the most common raptor in Ohio…they occupy the smallest of woodlots. Try listening for them in any wooded areas in your blocks. Their safe dates begin April 1st but screech-owls are probably starting up with their breeding activities now. Listen for their territorial “descending trill” or “whinny” calls.
  4. Look and listen for Barred Owls in wooded areas near streams, rivers, wet floodplain forests, or wooded urban areas. Great Horned Owls can be found in wooded upland areas or woodlots in agricultural areas. Direct access to woodlands or wooded edges is not always necessary for detecting these amazing raptors, as large owls can often be heard from roads at greater distances.
  5. What time of night to listen? Many official surveys recommend 1 hour after sunset to no later than midnight. However, early morning hours before sunrise can also work well.
  6. Broadcasting calls from your MP3 player or portable CD player is useful for detecting owls. Give it a try! Contact us today for suggestions on the responsible use of call playback techniques during the nesting season.
  7. Several other species of nesting birds will soon have active safe dates (e.g., American Woodcock, Ruffed Grouse, woodpeckers, chickadees, etc.) Please check the official species list at the OBBA2 website for more details.


On behalf of OBBA2, I thank you for your valuable contributions to this important project. Good birding!

– Matthew Shumar, Project Coordinator

...putting the nesting birds of Ohio on the map!
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