I arrived back in Bamfield last night after two weeks on the mainland. It was a successful trip; I came back with a Kia Sportage, a moving van full of new furniture (well, new to us), all of our boxes, enough food for a few weeks and many other bits and bobs needed to set up our new house. We’re still in temporary accommodations for now, but hopefully get to move in to our house soon.
It is wonderful to be back. Last night we were awoken by strange and beautiful owl sounds. While I have no experience identifying owls by their calls, it was pretty easy to figure out which species was making these distinctive sounds. On previous trips to Bamfield, I had seen Barred Owls in the woods surrounding Bamfield Marine Science Centre, but I had not heard them vocalizing. But since I knew these guys resided here, I looked up the sounds on the internet. (To be safe, I looked up a few other common owl sounds as well.)
The Barred Owl call can be remembered using the mnemonic “who cooks for you, who cooks for you-all”, and consists of eight hoots, the last of which is longer and descends in pitch at the end.
In BC, this owl was first found in 1943 and its populations have increased since then. It is found throughout almost all of BC, and in some places its range overlaps with the critically endangered Northern Spotted Owl. There is some concern that Barred Owls may be displacing Spotted Owls, or that hybridization may be occurring.
Barred Owls nest in existing cavities in trees and therefore are called secondary cavity users (since they don’t make the cavities). They can either make use of holes in trees, or in depressions made when the tops of dead trees have broken off. Barred owls use many different types of forests, including the Douglas-fir—western-red cedar forests of Bamfield. Their ability to be so versatile means that they’re also able to make use of sites that are disturbed by logging or by development. Perhaps this adaptability is one reason that they are able to out-compete Northern Spotted Owls, which only nest in old growth forests.
Perhaps this evening I’ll take a walk around the woods at twilight and see if I can catch a glimpse of these beautiful owls. I’ll bring my camera along.