Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

For Those Who Give a Hoot, Owl Prowl Proves Lots of Fun

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

For Those Who Give a Hoot, Owl Prowl Proves Lots of Fun

Article excerpt

If ever there was a perfect setting for an owl prowl it was a recent night at the August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area in St. Charles County.

A sharp chill hung in the air - just the way owls like it, especially the barred owls owl prowlers were hoping to hear from, said John Miller, wildlife biologist at Busch.

At an owl prowl, people walk in the woods hooting like owls and hoping the owls will hoot back.

Miller led the group of about 40 who attended the prowl in the woods. Miller is also the official owl caller at Busch.

The sky was a deep gray velvet, illuminated by the distant glow of St.Charles, and Busch's tall pines and skeletal oaks were silhouetted starkly against it - perfect for catching sight of an owl in flight.

"Hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo," called Miller, warming up to the "Who-cooks-for-you, who-cooks-for-you-all" hoot of the barred owl. The barred owl is a puffy, foot-tall owl that is generally the most cooperative about answering calls. Miller said about eight pairs nested at Busch.

Miller had advised the group that talking was out; only owl calls should be heard. Otherwise, the owls would probably not respond.

And just in case the birds were stubborn, Miller had brought along a tape machine with a loud recording of two owls hooting in animated conversation. Miller turned it on for good measure, but his own calls had piqued local interest. Within half a minute a "Hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo," sounded from a nearby tree. "Hoo, hoo," replied Miller. "Hoo, hoo," called the owl.

A flash of black through the trees signaled the arrival of a second barred owl. The two birds began to talk, then started shrieking, "Hoo, hoo, ha ha ha!"

A third owl flitted to a pine branch 20 feet over our heads, drawing long beams of light as half a dozen flashlights belonging to owl prowlers found him in the darkness. He was magnificent - creamy white in the flashlight beams, peering down at the intruders, hooting softly. For two minutes he posed for us, blinking in the light, then spread his snowy wings like fans and glided out of sight among the trees.

Miller's request for silence was forgotten, and prowlers started chattering excitedly about the birds. …

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