Saturday, March 18, 2023

Peeking at backyard wildlife: A flying squirrel and barred owl

Barred owl in the yard

The couple inches of snow on Friday night [March 10] got us through the weekend for Snofest. It looks like we might need a snowmobile to get around this week, if all the snow predictions come true. Looking at the weather map, they are getting much more to the south of us just like most of the storms this year…some went south of us, and some went north of us. I did see some skiers enjoying the new snow on the ski trail out back both Saturday and Sunday [March 11 and 12.] I could hear the snowmobiles going up the shoulder of the road out front while here at my computer.

Once I heard some crows right outside harassing something that caught my attention and I had to go outside and see what they were chasing. I saw a brown and white bird flash in front of them and got up into a big balsam tree along the driveway. I grabbed my binoculars and went up the driveway. The crows flew away as I got closer, but I couldn’t see anything in the balsam tree. As I went back down the driveway, I noticed a bigger bird on a branch not far from the balsam tree, and it was a Barred Owl. I got back into the house and grabbed my camera with the big lens. I got several shots of this bird, which was just happy that the crows had gone away.


I heard some skiers coming down the trail, and it was Jeff and Carol Collier and two of their grandchildren. I hollered out to Jeff and told him there was an owl in a tree right between us in the woods and he said, “I can see it.” The rest of his party came along and they all got to see it. Since this was not far from my bird feeders, the little birds were quite spooky the rest of the afternoon. That and feeding the birds has been about the extent of my wanderings in the woods for a while. One of the trips to Utica last week was for an MRI on my ankle, as it wasn’t getting any better. I went to St.
Elizabeth’s [Hospital] for that early [appointment] Wednesday morning [March 8] and got right in after giving them my page full of operations since I was a kid…and I even forgot a few. I guess they were looking for any metal in my body, which I didn’t have.

Flying squirrel on a tree

Flying squirrel that got out of the feeder. Photo by Gary Lee.

I put the rest of my stuff in a locked drawer along with my knife, watch, wallet, and hearing aids. When I got to the table, she had me take off my leather boots and put them on the floor. She said the one I didn’t have to take off might not fit in the machine, which was a good thing. The machine pounded a few times, taking pictures of my inner ankle, and I was done. I sat up on the side of the table and put on my socks. My feet didn’t touch the floor, so I picked up my boots to walk over to a nearby chair to put them on and, “Zip, Bang!” They flew right out of my hand and into the machine…one at each end. The attendant said, “They are steel-toed boots,” as she retrieved them from the machine. I said, “One must be positive and one negative as they went to opposite ends of the machine,” which got a chuckle out of the attendant. Well, they got good pictures of my ankle, which had three torn tendons…not good.


So, this week I went to an orthopedic surgeon in Syracuse who said these tendons would heal with me wearing a brace and doing PT locally for a few months. That’s my tale of woe. Now, maybe I’ll just feed the birds and write that long-awaited book, while I exercise my elevated foot. The folks out in California aren’t catching a break. Another Atmospheric River with rain and a snowstorm is hitting them this week off the ocean with over a foot of rain in places that don’t need any more. Feet of snow [is predicted] in the mountains that already have more snow that they can deal with. Coastal highways have been closed by mudslides and flooding, and some mountain highways haven’t been opened from the former snowstorms yet.


Another storm is sweeping across the south with scattered thunderstorms and tornadoes. Another one in our northern states is dumping well over a foot of snow along with very strong winds. The cold from this storm is streaming south which is going to bring freezing temperatures as far south as Georgia. Many of the flowering plants will be hit by a hard frost and [will] not produce any fruit or berries as a result. Locally, they are saying that a nor’easter is coming up the coast and meeting with that storm in the Midwest. [That would give] us more snow and wind than we’ve seen all winter. Well, March came in as a lamb, but [it] may be going out as a lion…and we are halfway through the month.


The synchronized snowplows in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade may lead and have to keep their plows down, but that’s another story. See ya.


Photo at top: Barred owl in the yard. Photo by Gary Lee.

Related Stories

Gary lives with his wife, Karen, at Eight Acre Wood in Inlet where he was the Forest Ranger for 35 years, working in the Moose River Wild Forest Recreation Area and West Canada Lakes Wilderness Area. Now retired, Gary works summers for the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, observing, catching and banding loons. The author of a column Daybreak to Twilight in local papers from 1986 to 2019, he now writes his Outdoor Adventures a weekly blog. In 2008, Gary coauthored a book with John M.C. “Mike” Peterson, "Adirondack Birding- 60 Great Places to Find Birds."

5 Responses

  1. Bill Kitchen says:

    Good luck with that ankle, Gary.

  2. JT says:

    I have read stories about owls attacking people, sometimes causing wounds. Last fall, I was a victim of one of these attacks by a Barred Owl. I got into my tree stand about a half hour before sunrise. Not long after, I heard tree branch move on my right, as I turned my head to look, the owl flew right into my head. It felt like breast feathers hitting my face. The owl immediately flew to a tree branch about ten yards away, looked at me for several seconds, then flew away. Luckily no blood was drawn. I have no bad feelings towards the owl, just another interesting outdoor experience.

  3. Charlie Stehlin says:

    That ‘is’ interesting JT! I’ve had my share of experiences with wildlife, and yes….no bad feelings towards any of them as they are just what they are. Thanks for sharing, and thank you too for sharing Gary.

  4. Phoebe M. says:

    I love your owl photo! This is the second year that I have had a pair of barred owls nest near my house. Their voices were melodious when they were courting, and they regularly hoot good morning and good night to each other. They also seem to respond when I turn the TV on or hoot to them. After they had an owllet (which I never saw) I heard a weaker, scratcher voice that I suspect belonged to the juvenile as it struggled to imitate the adults.
    Sometimes the owls roost nearby during the day and surprise me when I notice them. One time I was given a hissy warning. While I enjoy their company, I also am concerned that they might attack me. I often wear a light colored hat to keep my hair from being mistaken for a furry prey? Any other suggestions? They are hooting as I write.

  5. Chuck Samul says:

    A rare treat to get such a good, long look at a Barred Owl! I think I n 30 years up north I have seen one fewer than 10 times. Hear them almost daily, but rare to spot them.

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Wait! Before you go:

Catch up on all your Adirondack
news, delivered weekly to your inbox