Godwit Days Part I: Spotted Owl

April 30, 2016 3 By Audrey

Less than a week after my trip to Malheur, Tomas and I packed the car and drove seven hours south to Arcata, California, for the Godwit Days Festival.

Godwit Days

I consider Humboldt County my old stomping grounds, and I was super stoked for the birding festivities. But I was also sick with a cold, and there’s something about scheduled events and name tags that makes me want to skip school and run away. I had hoped the payoff would be worth it.

It totally was.

Spotted Owl

Not only was the weather spectacularly perfect, but there was a Spotted Owl on my first trip. Too easy. No really, it was too easy. The trip was led by an employee of Green Diamond Resource Company, a timber company that owns over 1.3 million acres of forests in Oregon, California, and Washington.  They conduct their own Spotted Owl research, and in the study areas some owls have become accustomed to people.

This one came ridiculously close.

Spotted Owl

It swooped down and caught a (live) mouse clinging to the end of a stick offered from the guide (it was requested no mice pictures taken). The owl ripped the mouse’s head off, and swallowed the rest whole. The pattern repeated. The owl stashed the second mouse bits, and prior to devouring the fourth, he hooted to a partner somewhere hidden in the trees. No hoots were returned, so he swallowed up the final mouse. Good owl.

Spotted Owl

After a strict four mouse limit and 20 minute viewing time, we left to keep the disturbance to a minimum. Being able to watch this controversial, near threatened species in daylight and to observe its behavior was pretty remarkable. (Look at those zygodactyl feet!!)

Spotted Owl

Bonus – on this trip I heard my first-of-year Wilson’s Warbler and Pacific-Slope Flycatcher! Benefits of driving south during migration.

Godwit Days were off to a spotty good start!