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A Barred Owl on High Mountain

In case you missed it, Marc Chelemer filed the following Jersey Birds report about High Mountain, one of my favorite places. (Thanks, Marc!)

After I finish teaching on Tuesdays, I usually have an hour or so to go birding, and Halifax Road in Mahwah has been my go-to spot. 

Looking for something different today, I saw on Google Maps that High Mountain Park, adjacent to William Paterson U., is only about 10 minutes from my teaching location.

I started up the Red Trail around 6:00 and strolled a round trip distance of about 1.75 miles in the hour that I had.  It's a nice woodland, and most of the birds were "heard only" because of the foliage. 

At one point, I tried and tried to see a softly chirping Hairy Woodpecker, but after several minutes, I could not get a bead on it (I now think it was actually IN its nest hole, which was visible). 

So I clapped my hands once in the hopes that it would investigate the sound.  The woodpecker continued its churring sound unabated, but not far in the distance, what should answer but a Barred Owl.

I gave a couple of poor imitations, and heard the owl call again, somewhat closer. 

By great luck, I scanned the distant trees through a "window" in the leaves and there was the bird, looking quite intently at me, just as I looked intently at it. 

Who knows what goes through an owl's thoughts when it sees something as unnatural as a human with strange coloration on its form and binoculars pointed right at it. 

This owl studied me patiently and thoroughly, never changing its gaze or moving its head, for a full five minutes.  After a time, it lost interest and looked away.  I moved on as well.

Only twenty species for the hour, as the leaves hide the movement of any small birds, and almost everything had gone quiet by this time of day.  But a daylight encounter with a Barred Owl made the time and the experience special. 

I'll be back at this verdant spot early in the morning in the near future to listen to the dawn chorus.