One night this week Jake my garden supervisor was taking his last trip outdoors before retiring for the night, usually a rather uneventful routine. But while poised in his usual area he was startled by a very loud owl screech penetrating the quiet winter landscape that envelops my gardens this time of year. Spinning around my husband realized our old friend the Barred Owl was on his favorite hunting perch in our side yard: my daughters old basketball hoop. We have seen the owl there many nights throughout the spring and summer months…but never considered the presence during the dead of winter. Having recently contributed to an upcoming local article on attracting birds to the winter garden….I realized, i totally neglected the value of my Barred Owl friends!
Throughout the early spring and summer I am constantly serenaded by the family of Barred Owls in and around my gardens. I love the late night callings of these nocturnal birds coming through my open windows. There is something fascinating about that sound piercing through the dead of night. The unique cadence and tone is quite mesmerizing. But with my windows closed and the silencing layer of snow all around in winter, I never stopped to consider their presence this time of year. So I did a little research to learn more about this stately bird and it’s relation to my gardens.
I learned their unusual mating calls begin in February! So all this time I have been missing out on this beautiful night calling due to my ignorance about their life habits. This February I will attempt some night time walks outdoors in hopes of catching this early season music.
In my reading I discovered the Barred Owl prefers areas of old forests and wetlands. My property here in Northern Saratoga County is the perfect combination for the owls preferred habitat. The hemlocks, oak and beech trees provide them dense daytime perches. Old tree cavities are their choices for nesting. That describes my surrounding property to a T.
I also discovered their preferred foods include small rodents such as mice, voles and moles. What a perfect natural predator for my garden pests! As these little rodents try to burrow into my gardens and feast on roots and bulbs for the winter or look for the small opening to inhabit my basement…my friend the owl is on it’s night prowl to help me keep the population at bay! The Barred Owl is a wonderful natural addition to my winter garden landscape.
I will now add the owl family to my list of welcome bird visitors to my winter garden. This nocturnal bird of prey may move with silence and often unseen, in contrast to the colorful daytime visitors. But this bird has real value in balancing my natural ecosystem during the quiet hours of the night. And their night hoots can be a welcome calling in the still winter darkness. Want to hear the fascinating sound of the barred owl? I found their call and other great information on this NY website: http://www.nyantler-outdoors.com/barred-owl.html Enjoy!