Congratulations to Stephanie McCaull for winning the November 2023 Photo-observation of the Month for the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist! Her photos of a remarkable chance encounter with one of Vermont’s most secretive owls received the most faves of any iNaturalist observation in Vermont during the past month.
On a sunny fall morning in the Connecticut River valley, VCE friend and board member Stephanie McCaull stepped outside to a din of cawing American Crows. Knowing this cacophony could be in response to a local owl or other predator drawing the ire of these crafty corvids, she searched around her front yard until she spotted a well-camouflaged owl with protruding feathery ‘ears.’ Smaller and slimmer than the more common Great Horned Owl, and with a different patterning of coloration on the breast and face, the Long-eared Owl is one of Vermont’s most secretive and sought-after owl species. Avid birders will spend hours at night listening with hands cupped to their ears for the soft, low hoots of Long-eared Owls in their preferred habitat — dense thickets of cedar and other coniferous trees adjacent to open areas for hunting rodents — but every so often one of these reclusive owls will roost out in the open, providing a treat for lucky birders. To learn more about these charismatic, reclusive owls, head over to Vermont eBird where this article on the thrills of searching for Long-eared Owls in Vermont also provides a plethora of natural history information.
Visit the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist where you can vote for the winner this month by clicking the ‘fave’ star on your favorite photo-observation. Make sure you get outdoors and record the biodiversity around you, then submit your discoveries and you could be a winner!