Cindy and I have ventured out in to the night whenever the wind allows only to find silence. By this time last year we had at least ten boreal owls and a couple of saw-whets not to mention pygmys. The songs heard numbered close to one hundred.
This year we've heard four songs from two boreal owls and one saw-whet. No pygmys as of yet. We have heard several great horned owls, but that's to be expectd as snow conditions don't seem to affect them much.
Two of the boreal songs came from the same spot, so I snowshoed in for a look and quickly found a likely cavity some thirty-five feet high.
I'll keep an eye on it and see what materializes.
It came to me that the boreals might have migrated vertically down to Sunlight Basin, so Cindy and I made the 325 mile trip to land some 10 miles from our cabin. Cooke Pass won't be open for at least a month yet.
Since we had to wait until dark, we spent the afternoon checking out the great gray nests we could get to. I knew we were a couple of weeks early, but man, there's still a lot of snow in Sunlight Basin. One by one I snowshoed up into the forest to check nest sites. And one by one I found them empty. There really wasn't any signs of great grays anywhere. Last year at this time one of the nests I checked already had a great gray in it.
What a difference a hard winter makes.
As it was getting near 8PM, Cindy and I drove as far up the east side of Cooke Pass as snow would allow and waited for full dark. When the time came, we listened for songs, drove 1/4 mile, listened again, drove 1/4 mile, listened again. We did this all the way to the junction.
The night was silent. No owls.
We moved on to Sunlight Basin then continued our survey. Still nothing. All we really found was a fox hunting along the roadside.
It was close to 11PM when we made it back to Cody. All the eateries were closed so we dined from a vending machine.
The next morning we drove toward Red Lodge and checked out a great horned owl nest that's been active for the past few years. Sure enough, there she sat! We also came across lots of meadowlarks, mountain bluebirds, hawks and our first osprey.
The trip as a whole was a failure. But, even in failure I learned something.
If the boreals aren't singing on my side of the pass, they're probably not singing on the other side either.