Sunday, January 07, 2007

Searching for a Barn Owl

NJ does not have a huge population of Barn Owls. There are some found in old churches in cities and others found in the farms that still remain in rural parts of NJ. There's no sure-fire place to see one though. Despite several efforts, I've never seen one. So, when I recently got word of a Barn Owl found about 10 miles from my house, I was pretty excited. I didn't have an exact location. I just knew that it had been seen in an abandoned building in a field where they used to "blow up lots of bombs". The area is located near a large industrial area and I had a pretty good idea of where it was. I looked up the area on Google Maps and noticed that there were a LOT of "abandoned-looking" buildings in this area. My dad and I decided to go check it out yesterday.

We explored some backroads looking for ways to enter the area. We found many dead ends, an impassable set of train tracks up on a hill, and several "No Trespassing" signs. We decided to enter one of the restricted areas that was restricted to model airplane license holders and no one else. We spoke with some of the model airplane pilots and they pointed us to a nearby road. At the end of the road, we found a dead end with walking access to several roads.

We hopped out of the car and started exploring. The one thing I knew was that the building had a big front door and no windows. We saw two buildings that fit this description right near where we were. Unfortunately, they were surrounded by a few hundred feet of 8-foot tall phragmites.

A possible Barn Owl hiding spot...

I tried to get through the phragmites, but I encountered my two least favorite things - muck and mire. Dad and I tried to find other access points, but all of them proved fruitless.

After a second try into the marsh...

I decided to go back today with some rubber boots on. Even with the rubber boots, I couldn't get close enough to these buildings. Large ponds and rivulets snaked all around. Upon further inspection on Google Maps, I noticed there may be another access road through a local college campus. I think I'll try that next week.

My boots didn't help...

The model airplane club was out in full force. Check out this jet! How cool!

1 comment:

Susan Gets Native said...

I saw some cool model planes yesterday on my birding excursion, and the buzzing was drowning out all the bird song.

Good luck with the barn owl hunt. Ohio has about 50 nesting pairs, so my odds of finding one aren't too good. But we can all be lucky sometimes, right?