October is "owl month." They'll be on many minds this month. Most will be in the form of Halloween decorations, but some people will see or hear real live owls. There are 15 species on Washington's bird checklist. That's a lot of owls, more than enough to go around the entire state, and that's just what they do.
Several reside over most of the state. Some are seen only on the west side and some are only on the east side. Others, like the snowy, great gray and Northern hawk-owl, are rare. Their visits are unpredictable at best.
A proper Halloween owl, the kind that hangs out with witches, ghosts and goblins should have horns. Only three owl species can be credited with wearing a proper set of “horns.” These feathered ear tufts that create a rather devilish look are found on the large great horned owl, the small screech owl and on the eastern side of the state, the long-eared owl. The uncommon to rare flammulated owl can raise a pair of short, rather wimpy “horns,” but the great horned, screech and long-eared have it hands down.
When it comes to being the best Halloween owls, the great horned and the Western screech are the finalists. They are found over most of the state. Narrowing the choice even further brings you to one conclusion. The great horned owl not only looks the part but can be seen over the entire state. They even show up when it isn’t pitch dark outside.
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Many owls are nocturnal. Others are active for part of the day. They begin their hunting early in the evening and continue into the early morning hours. Some owls, like that visitor from the north, the snowy owl, actually hunt during the day.
Owls become more active vocally in late fall. They may be around during the summer months, but they are quiet. In the fall, this year’s young are looking for their own territories while the adults are defending their established hunting areas. If you’re inclined to do some owl prowling, nighttime is the best time. Lots of listening is part of the game.
Hummingbirds aren’t normally on everyone’s mind when fall arrives, but things have been changing. The increase in the number of wintering hummingbirds over the past few years is responsible. Several inquiries concerning the feeding of hummingbirds were received this month. Anna’s hummingbirds, the species that spends the winter in the Pacific Northwest, are moving into neighborhoods where they will probably spend the cooler months. Others are showing up because certain yards offer some of the plants they are attracted to.
Readers have been asking if the birds will migrate if feeders are available. Yes, they will. At one time, the theory presented by some was that we could stop the birds from heading south if we left our feeders out. Hummingbirds aren’t like Canada geese. They can’t be corrupted that easily. When the days get shorter and cooler, our little rufous has been on its way for many weeks.
When it comes to the Anna’s hummingbirds, they make their own plans to stay. If you are seeing them in your yard, there is no reason to take the feeders in. Last winter was very harsh, but when we returned home in mid-February after a month in Hawaii, the Anna’s were here to greet us. Hummingbirds all year round is a wonderful idea. If they are going to stay, I’m going to feed them.
Write to Joan Carson, PO Box 217, Poulsbo, WA 98370. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply.