I played calls of barred owls several times all the way to the cattail marsh with no audio or physical response. Usually they fly in silently, a large shadowy figure gliding through the leafless tree canopy, silhouetted against the sky. Not so this time. I began to wonder if the resident pairs had relocated since the summer.
We walked as far as the cattail marsh, where I played calls of all the resident owls in Mecklenburg County; barred, great-horned, and Eastern screech. Then, seemingly in response to the great-horned owl juvenile call, something gave a loud, unidentifiable call back. I thought it COULD have been a great-horned owl but it was never repeated. After 15 minutes of silence, it was time for our group of 11 to head back. And then a barred owl gave a single hoo-aw. Out came the playback again, only to elicit no more vocalization. The birds were clearly just playing with us by now. They knew the game and they were winning.
It was really time to go now. As we headed back along the raised boardwalk over the marsh, I shone my light along the far tree line. A broken off tree trunk didn’t look just right. We put a brighter light on it, and with the aid of binoculars confirmed a barred owl perched, calmly looking back at us. No telling how long it had been sitting there, and it still was in no hurry to leave even with suddenly being in the spotlight. Everyone got a good look before it dropped off it’s perch to perhaps grab a crayfish or small rodent.
And as is typical for a nocturnal stroll along the greenway, we were able to locate foraging white-tailed deer and racoons by the reflections their eyes made when our lights were shined into the tree canopy and underbrush.