Thursday, July 12, 2012

Striped Owl

Yesterday, while birding my 'local patch', I found this Striped Owl. We've been birding this little laguna about 10 minutes from our house fairly frequently since we discovered it back in January. This place, Laguna Villa Royal it's called, delivers consistently, and after 17 visits thus far we've accumulated 136 species there, including species considered uncommon in Central America. Almost every time we go there, we pick up something new. I expected the pace to slow down a bit during the summer (with all the migrants gone) but we're still adding new resident birds, like Thicket Tinamou and Yellow-billed Cacique last week, and this week Striped Owl.

It wasn't difficult to find. Tropical Kingbirds, Melodious Blackbirds and Groove-billed Anis were kicking up a tremendous racket, so I knew upon approach that there was likely a raptor perched somewhere.

The owl seemed completely oblivious to all this commotion, as it sat there low on a branch dozing in the late afternoon sun. As I got closer, it became more alert, and then flew off a short distance, with loud, angry passerines in tow. Although easily relocated, I decided to leave it alone and give it some rest.

Striped Owl occurs from Mexico through Central America well into South America. Here in Central America it is rarely reported, with most of the eBird records from places more heavily birded by tourists (Belize, Costa Rica). eBird has no records from Guatemala, El Salvador or Nicaragua for this species, and my record is the first Honduran eBird record.

Laguna Villa Royal is just a small, artificial lake (or large pond, if you will) in a valley surrounded by pine-oak forest. The valley is mostly cattle pasture and dry scrub forest. The laguna area is privately owned and fenced off, although the owner allows people on the property. Many people from the nearby hamlet come here to fish or swim, and there's usually cattle or horses grazing the area. The birding there is as good as any in the area, with notable sightings such as Ruddy Duck, Lesser Scaup, Masked Duck, Roseate Spoonbill, Great Black-Hawk, Bell's Vireo, Mangrove Swallow, and Mourning Warbler. Resident species such as Limpkin, Lesser Ground-Cuckoo, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Brown-crested Flycatcher and White-lored Gnatcatcher are easily observed there.

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