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I need some help to figure out how to see these birds. I hear them behind my house just before dark but when I go into the woods to see them they are like ghosts. Does anyone have any tips on how I can see them? Should I carry a high powered flashlight into the woods with me? Will that be a bad idea? Thanks for the suggestions. 

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The ones near me are pretty vocal so quite easy to pin point where they are, though it takes some time and patience to stare around into the woods trying to find them. They have some good camouflage. 
I always find mine about 40 minutes to an hour before the sun actually sets (8:45pm is ‘sunset’ but I’ve seen them as early as 7:30) They of course are still active after that, but it makes it a lot easier to find them and photograph as the lighting is still pretty good. Barred owls are pretty active during the day as well so no need to begin to search for them once they start calling or when it’s twilight. Once you get close to them, they’ll often quite down and just watch you. Also good to pay attention to the calls and activity  of others songbirds who seem agitated and begin to perch or fly around one area. That often gives away a sleepy owls position.

I’d do what Charlie said, looking for the white wash on bark or the ground, as well as owl pellets and feathers can help find their roost. Also good to look for good roost trees that are large and thick and just stare at them for a few minutes making sure nothing is staring back at you.

It took me 4 days of waking up before sunrise and walking around in the woods for hours before I found my first one!
Little did I know that I could find them in this one area 99% of the time at 8pm instead 🙄 

The family near me also loves to play in the sprinklers in this persons yard. I don’t know if they like the water or what the water attracts, but as soon as those sprinklers come on, they’re over there. You could try running a sprinkler closer to night and see if that does anything to bring them out, though I don’t know if that would  work. 
Owls are tough to see, but it makes it more rewarding when you actually see one. Good luck!

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That is good information Aaron... Thanks.... Last evening one of them was calling about 2 hours before sunset and I walked down into the woods on my property and got pretty close to him.  Of course he stopped calling.  I never saw him.  I stared up into the trees for about 10 minutes looking for him.   These thick, tall trees are over a dry creek bed that only has water when it rains so it is difficult terrain so I can't check for feathers or droppings.  The leaf canopy from the trees is very thick so that obscures most of my vision as well.  I will eventually see one.  There a lot of them within about a square mile of my house.  I live one mile from Oak Mountain State Park so they call to one another over some pretty long distances. I can sometimes here them and the sound is so faint.  There is no telling how far away they are?  About 20 minutes before sunset a bunch of them started calling so there were two calling periods last evening which I have heard them do before.  Thanks again.  I will post when I see one. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

I need to give an update on my owl situation.   I hit the jackpot yesterday evening!  I have an outdoor entertainment system with outdoor speakers on each side of my house so I found a barred owl recording on Spotify to play on my speakers.  I heard the owl around 6:15 so I put my recording on and turned up the volume to play the recording.  Within 30 seconds I saw this huge bird come flying out of the woods toward my house. It was the Barred Owl and he/she was very excited. This is the first time I have seen a Barred Owl in the wild in my life.  I did not realize how big they are.  Anyway, I played the recording several times as the owl flew back and forth over my house trying to figure out where the owl (from the recording) was.  It made him so excited that he kept calling up to 30 minutes after I went inside and quit playing the recording.   Beautiful bird. 

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There are some ethical questions regarding the use of playback.  It shouldn't be an issue this time of year, but it can cause problems during breeding season.  The bird may hear a recorded call and try to defend its territory, expending energy it needs to attract a mate, build a nest, capture prey to feed its young, help fledglings, etc.  Keep in mind that breeding seasons vary between species, and adjust your playbacks accordingly.

Sorry, I''m not trying to sound like lecturing old geezer (this time).

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21 hours ago, Charlie Spencer said:

There are some ethical questions regarding the use of playback.  It shouldn't be an issue this time of year, but it can cause problems during breeding season.  The bird may hear a recorded call and try to defend its territory, expending energy it needs to attract a mate, build a nest, capture prey to feed its young, help fledglings, etc.  Keep in mind that breeding seasons vary between species, and adjust your playbacks accordingly.

Sorry, I''m not trying to sound like lecturing old geezer (this time).

Yeah.. I already knew about this being a concern but I appreciate your two cents... Ha ha!  I would not have even thought about doing it but since I have not been able to see them I thought I would give it a try.  Not something I would do to disturb their natural behavior on a routine basis and I may never do it again.  It was interesting to me about his size assuming this was the male. If the female is 1/3 larger then I am most impressed by the size of this species. 

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On 8/4/2020 at 7:18 PM, Aaron said:

The ones near me are pretty vocal so quite easy to pin point where they are, though it takes some time and patience to stare around into the woods trying to find them. They have some good camouflage. 
I always find mine about 40 minutes to an hour before the sun actually sets (8:45pm is ‘sunset’ but I’ve seen them as early as 7:30) They of course are still active after that, but it makes it a lot easier to find them and photograph as the lighting is still pretty good. Barred owls are pretty active during the day as well so no need to begin to search for them once they start calling or when it’s twilight. Once you get close to them, they’ll often quite down and just watch you. Also good to pay attention to the calls and activity  of others songbirds who seem agitated and begin to perch or fly around one area. That often gives away a sleepy owls position.

I’d do what Charlie said, looking for the white wash on bark or the ground, as well as owl pellets and feathers can help find their roost. Also good to look for good roost trees that are large and thick and just stare at them for a few minutes making sure nothing is staring back at you.

It took me 4 days of waking up before sunrise and walking around in the woods for hours before I found my first one!
Little did I know that I could find them in this one area 99% of the time at 8pm instead 🙄 

The family near me also loves to play in the sprinklers in this persons yard. I don’t know if they like the water or what the water attracts, but as soon as those sprinklers come on, they’re over there. You could try running a sprinkler closer to night and see if that does anything to bring them out, though I don’t know if that would  work. 
Owls are tough to see, but it makes it more rewarding when you actually see one. Good luck!

   Speaking of 'magical Sprinklers' ...  in the Summer, it's hot, and i want to get a count on BCChkadeez i turn the hose up into the local green canopy and they ALL flock to it... (there's a fountain an pond grotto ensconced below. + entire feeding mall).., cnt 10 two weeks ago. Billings, Montana

 

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  • 5 months later...
On 8/2/2020 at 10:50 AM, tclarkwood said:

I need some help to figure out how to see these birds. I hear them behind my house just before dark but when I go into the woods to see them they are like ghosts. Does anyone have any tips on how I can see them? Should I carry a high powered flashlight into the woods with me? Will that be a bad idea? Thanks for the suggestions. 

I had the exact same problem.  I have a wet weather creek behind my house and lots of large trees.  I heard the owls all the time, but I have a hard time seeing them, still.  Since I heard them frequently, and the habitat was right for them nesting, so I built and put up a nest box.  I figured that would give me better odds of getting to see them, and it worked. 

The first year (4 years ago), I saw the female in the box, but then didn't see any more activity.  The last two years, she has nested and raised two owlets.  This year, she came to the box a few times, and appeared to be preparing to nest, but then stopped coming. I thought it might have been because I put a camera in the box this year, and was so SAD, until I read that the female takes every 3rd year off, to give her body a break.  This would explain why she didn't nest in it the first year.  

These owls mate for life and only leave their relatively small territory if food becomes scarce, so when you play the calls, they need to defend their territory.  Please be sure to never do that between Feb and Aug, during breeding season.  They are predated on by Great Horned Owls, which a lot of people don't realize. 

Here is a link to where I got the plans and instructions for hanging the box... 
https://www.owlpages.com/download/Nest_Box_Plans_for_Barred_Owls_by_Michael_Cantwell.pdf

Here are a couple of pics of Hootie, Heloise and some Hootlets from 2019 and 2020.

HootieAndHeloise05082019.jpg

Hootlets05242019.jpg

Heloise04282020.jpg

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 3/5/2021 at 9:30 AM, Michelle Summers said:

I had the exact same problem.  I have a wet weather creek behind my house and lots of large trees.  I heard the owls all the time, but I have a hard time seeing them, still.  Since I heard them frequently, and the habitat was right for them nesting, so I built and put up a nest box.  I figured that would give me better odds of getting to see them, and it worked. 

The first year (4 years ago), I saw the female in the box, but then didn't see any more activity.  The last two years, she has nested and raised two owlets.  This year, she came to the box a few times, and appeared to be preparing to nest, but then stopped coming. I thought it might have been because I put a camera in the box this year, and was so SAD, until I read that the female takes every 3rd year off, to give her body a break.  This would explain why she didn't nest in it the first year.  

These owls mate for life and only leave their relatively small territory if food becomes scarce, so when you play the calls, they need to defend their territory.  Please be sure to never do that between Feb and Aug, during breeding season.  They are predated on by Great Horned Owls, which a lot of people don't realize. 

Here is a link to where I got the plans and instructions for hanging the box... 
https://www.owlpages.com/download/Nest_Box_Plans_for_Barred_Owls_by_Michael_Cantwell.pdf

I'm so jealous!  My husband I have been discussing putting up a box, we hear them ALOT by us.  But I'm not sure I have an appropriate tree in a spot where I could watch it easily.  I plan to spend this summer paying extra attention to trees and locations and what not with an eye towards putting up a box in the fall.

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On 3/27/2021 at 11:54 AM, ruthcatrin said:

I'm so jealous!  My husband I have been discussing putting up a box, we hear them ALOT by us.  But I'm not sure I have an appropriate tree in a spot where I could watch it easily.  I plan to spend this summer paying extra attention to trees and locations and what not with an eye towards putting up a box in the fall.

It's not terribly complicated, especially if you hear them a lot.  It just needs to be 15ft or higher, on a tree at least 1ft in diameter, facing north, and within 100ft of water.  I think that's about it, besides the specs for the box itself.  Mine isn't visible from the house, but the female is pretty tolerant of me being around, as long as I stay about 30ft away from wherever she is.  First year she nested in my box, I walked by frequently, partly to get her used to my presence, and partly to look for other birds.   It's worth knowing where they are, and seeing the babies start peeking out, when they get big enough.  Also, they stay in the trees very near the nest, after they fledge, for 3 to 4 weeks, so you would get a chance to observe all of that behavior.

 

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  • 2 months later...
On 3/30/2021 at 3:35 PM, Michelle Summers said:

It's not terribly complicated, especially if you hear them a lot.  It just needs to be 15ft or higher, on a tree at least 1ft in diameter, facing north, and within 100ft of water.  I think that's about it, besides the specs for the box itself.  Mine isn't visible from the house, but the female is pretty tolerant of me being around, as long as I stay about 30ft away from wherever she is.  First year she nested in my box, I walked by frequently, partly to get her used to my presence, and partly to look for other birds.   It's worth knowing where they are, and seeing the babies start peeking out, when they get big enough.  Also, they stay in the trees very near the nest, after they fledge, for 3 to 4 weeks, so you would get a chance to observe all of that behavior.

 

Its the tree size that might be the problem.  I gotta get out there with a tape measure.

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Posted (edited)

This isn't the first Barred I've seen, but it's the first one I've seen on my own without someone else calling it or spotting it first.  Cayce (SC) Riverwalk / Timmerman Trail is upriver from Congaree National Park, but the conditions are very similar - heavily wooded floodplain.  The bird came swooping through the trees, landed, gave me a good minute, then departed into the woods.  Frickin' magnificent.

DSC01849.thumb.JPG.13239b1dad59664e2fa983825df5afe9.JPG

Edited by Charlie Spencer
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The outer dark band around its face is more pronounced that what I have seen on my family of owls in Alabama.  Is this a regional difference or an indication of the age of the bird?  Just curious.   Great shot! 

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4 hours ago, tclarkwood said:

The outer dark band around its face is more pronounced that what I have seen on my family of owls in Alabama.  Is this a regional difference or an indication of the age of the bird?  Just curious.   Great shot! 

Here's the other one.

DSC01847.thumb.JPG.7d0c3a2db4423a2c9eb6e1bf5e41b78e.JPG

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