Lately, I’ve heard a number of people say, “I’m going on an owl prowl!” But then, in response, I hear, “What’s an owl prowl?” It’s a walk to spot owls, of course!
I think the question stands not only of why a person would be prowling for owls, but more so why they would do so in the middle of winter. The answers are quite simple though. First, owls are not something that you generally just happen to spy so looking for one intentionally is a little bit necessary, hense the prowl. Also, many owl species of New York don’t migrate in the winter and since dusk and dawn are generally the best times to view them, winter is a great time to try to catch a glimpse because dusk comes at 4:30pm.
Last year I took my son to an owl prowl at Seneca Meadows Wetland Preserve in Waterloo. The program began just before dusk and we wound our way slowly through the trails on the look-out for any large, low-flying birds. The group was led by an educator from Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge and he not only spoke about birds but also told us other facts relating to life in the wetland. Paul and I brought up the rear as he was only two at the time and had a very short attention span. He did weild his own functional kid binoculars though.
We were hoping to spot short-eared owls, which are fairly common at the complex, if endangered in New York State. It was also possible we would hear great horned or eastern screech owls we were told, which are common residents of upstate New York and overwinter in the north. Unfortunately, we did not catch a sighting of an owl, but we did see a northern harrier as it made low passes back and forth in search of food. Northern harriers are a species of hawk that is listed as threatened in New York State.
I will admit that when I registered for the owl prowl, my intention was less to see an owl and more about getting my child outdoors. I love this preserve and spending some time outside during the sunset in winter seemed like a good way to get us out of our routine. Other owl prowl programs are more sucessful at spotting owls, so if you are interesed, I would recommend checking out any nature centers, wetland and nature preserves, or wildlife refuges near you. Check out the events page as well on Life in the Finger Lakes webpage. Information on Seneca Meadows Wetland Preserve can be found at http://www.senecameadows.com/wetlands.php.