Eastern Screech Owlet in Rouge National Urban Park, Toronto
Pandemic Birding had been a whole new experience for Bob and me. Since the pandemic was officially declared in March 2020, we had made outdoor activities a priority but always kept within a 30-minute radius from our home. On one such occasion in late May 2020, we happened upon this newly fledged Eastern Screech Owlet.
We woke up to a cool, damp day, and rain persisted off and on during the morning, but seizing a sunny break after lunch, we went to one of our local patches.
It started off slow when we spotted a Raccoon poking through the woods, and beyond that, we thought the hike rather unremarkable.
There is a section of wetland in the forest of this particular patch, so we spent a bit of time there observing a few species of birds.
On that and other occasions, we had discovered three Wood Ducks, two males and a female, and one couple appeared to be paired up with intentions of nesting.
An Eastern Phoebe was seen hawking for insects.
With the canopy almost fully leafed out, there was considerable shadow to deal with when photographing the landscape and creatures.
As we undertook the return portion of the trail, ahead of us, a huge commotion was unfolding. Several Robins seemed to be chasing one another.
I stopped to observe the action and nearly fell over when I looked to my left for there, at eye level, staring back at me, was an adorable baby Eastern Screech Owl.
The Screech Owlet was about 8 feet away and appeared as surprised as I was.
With all the worries and isolation as a result of the pandemic, seeing this adorable baby Screech Owl really lifted my spirits.
Bob was drawing up the rear, and in a strained whisper, I drew his attention to the tiny little owlet clinging to the side of a tree trunk right there beside the trail.
The Eastern Screech Owl blended in so well with the tree bark that I would have walked right by had I not stopped to see what all the fuss was about with the Robins.
Bob and I did not want to stress the owlet or draw undue attention to it, so we kept a safe distance and tried to photograph the baby owl by using other tree trunks as a screen.
The owlet was well camouflaged on its chosen tree. We suspect it flew down there to escape the harassment of the Robins, and even as we observed the owlet, the Robins continued to dive-bomb the wee owl.
Bob and I were pretty certain that we heard another Screech Owl vocalizing nearby, and this little owlet kept uttering sounds throughout our encounter with it.
When we were down the trail some distance taking our leave of the area, the Eastern Screech Owlet hopped up the tree trunk by flapping its wings, then took flight to a tree on the opposite side of the trail.
The owlet hunkered down almost completely hidden from our view, and the Robins continued to give chase. On a return visit to the same forest a couple of weeks later, no sign of any owls was found.
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