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On April 27, 2012, I discovered two long-eared owl nests, one in lower Tongue Creek and one in Sheep Camp. Long-eared owls roosted in both drainages throughout the winter. I could see at least one fuzzy owlet in the Tongue Creek nest, but I was unable to see anything but a sitting female in the Sheep Camp nest. Both owls laid their eggs in old black-billed magpie nests, located in the center of heavily browsed maples. A few more days of leaf growth on these shrubs would have prevented me from finding the nests.

Long eared owl & owlet.

The fuzzy grey feathers at the bottom left of the visible owl belong to at least one owlet.

Defensive long-eared owl

The Tongue Creek female displayed a defensive posture, hissing and puffing out her wings.

Owl nest location

Calm owl in nest

The Sheep Camp female sits calmly on her nest. I saw fresh bear scat near the base of this shrub.

Sheep Camp owl nest

About the Author

Kate Stone

Kate graduated from Middlebury College with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Conservation Biology in 2000. She pursued a M.S. in Forestry at the University of Montana where her thesis focused on the habitat associations of snowshoe hares on U.S. National Forest land in Western Montana. After completing her M.S. degree in 2003, Kate alternated between various field biology jobs in the summer and writing for the U.S. Forest Service in the winter. Her fieldwork included projects on small mammal response to weed invasions, the response of bird communities to bark beetle outbreaks and targeted surveys for species of concern like the black-backed woodpecker and the Northern goshawk. Writing topics ranged from the ecology and management of western larch to the impacts of fuels reduction on riparian areas.

Kate coordinates bird-related research at the MPG Ranch. She is involved in both original research and facilitating the use of the Ranch as a study site for outside researchers. Additionally, Kate is the field trip coordinator and website manager for the Bitterroot Audubon Society. She also enjoys gardening and biking in her spare time.