I spent the summer of 2008 (oh my God, that seems like such a long time ago) at the University of Notre Dame’s environmental research center west of Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin, through a program for undergraduates interested in environmental science – at the time I had no idea I’d be moving back here for graduate school! One night a group of us were out in the field at night light-trapping moths when we heard a striking, unfamiliar sound from overhead, similar to the tooting of a Saw-whet Owl but not quite the same. The sound seemed to moving around, now swooping over our heads, now farther away, now in a nearby tree. The night was too dark for us to ever get a glimpse of the creature that was responsible.
All of us, a half dozen or so undergraduates, listen to recordings of owl calls when we got home, and we all agreed that what we had heard was the call of a Boreal Owl. According to the range maps in our field guides, we were too far south to encounter a Boreal Owl in the summer, but there was no denying that the call we’d heard was a perfect match for the recording. Mystified but happy, I added Boreal Owl to my life list and didn’t give the matter any more thought.
Then yesterday GrrlScientist had to go and write a blog post about about Wilson’s Snipe and mention that the “winnowing” sound created by its tail feathers during its courtship display sounds very similar to the call of a Boreal Owl. And that courting males “fly in circles.” And that they do this “long into the evening.” And sometimes even at night, I suppose?
Sigh. No one likes deleting a species from their life list.
This post was one of the recipients of the 2011 Prairie Sagebrush Awards, created by Jack Matthews, nature writer, historian, and creator of the truly fine blog Sage to Meadow.