As we progress deeper into November, animal behavior changes drastically as different species rush to prepare for the cold winter months. Many species migrate, such as the majority of songbirds and waterfowl, but others tough out the cold and adjust their lifestyle instead. Easton possesses a wide variety of habitats that wildlife call home. With patience and a sharp eye, one can spot the behavioral shift with these denizens of the forest.
Great horned owls (Bubo virginanus) are the heaviest owl in New England, and a mating pair often inhabit a single territory year-round. These territories can be very large, some being several square miles or more. During the summer, adult great horned owls are mostly quiet, only vocalizing briefly over territory disputes. As the temperatures drop the owls become much more vocal, sometimes even hooting during the day. This is the time of year the young begin to find their own territories and when males establish theirs as all owls prepare for the mating and nesting seasons.
While it can be fun to “hoot” back and observe these owls, one must be careful not to disturb them. Owls are sensitive species and bothering them during an already active time of year can be detrimental to the bird. Using binoculars or long lenses to view them from a distance results in the safest practices for watching owls. Take your picture and go on your way is an important aspect to consider when viewing any wildlife.
Great horned owls are not the only raptors that have a change in behavior once the seasons change. Bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), begin building nests this time of year. It is not uncommon to observe eagles flying and holding large twigs and sticks. Eagles will land and hop from tree to tree tearing twigs and branches to add to the ever-growing nest. Eagles’ nests can grow to be quite large. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recorded some nests to be nine feet wide in diameter.
Eagles are New England’s largest raptors and can have wingspans of up to seven and a half feet. While they look fearsome in appearance, eagles often rely on scavenging and stealing from other birds of prey such as ospreys. This time of year, with the absence of osprey, the eagles hunt on their own and have to spend their energy wisely.
Bald eagles and great horned owls become more active this time of year and the lack of foliage makes them easier to find. Try to find these amazing predators through trails and lands managed by the Aspetuck Land Trust, or explore trails throughout Connecticut at CT Woodlands.
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