Long-eared Owl - Asio otus
This winter some local birders got to see quite a sight. Long-eared owls will often group up in the non-breeding season, and create sort of winter safety pods. Normally very wary of human activity, a group ranging from 3 to sometimes 13 roosted in a very conspicuous pine tree in an urban area here for several weeks. It was a once in a lifetime chance for many to see this species up close. Asio otus is a master of camouflage, and when disturbed will elongate itself to blend in with tree trunks, or simply fly away. This particular group of owls sat like a bunch of fat cats, sleeping, yawning, preening, in a tree very near a busy sidewalk. Every once in a while one would slowly creak open an eye to take a peek at the nutty bunch of hominids gawking away, of which I was one. I worked on an asio (not one from the local group!) last week and prepared a study skin of it, and it was incredibly beautiful. Their furry talons and thick plumage, make them seem more mammal than avian to me sometimes.