Natural History Topics - January

Great horned owl
Great horned owl


Silent Fliers of the Upland Forests
It may seem hard to believe that any bird could be at the height of its nesting season during the coldest time of year. As strange as it may seem, this is true for the owls that inhabit the Cuyahoga River upland forests.

Both the great horned owl and the barred owl can be heard in the evening, and at times seen within their nesting territories. The best time to listen for owls is early morning before dawn when they are most active. Listen for the hooting call of the great horned owl, “hoo, hoo-oo, hoo, hoo” and the "who cooks for you, who cooks for you all" of the barred owl. The screech owl has a descending wailing trill, sometimes sung as a single note.

Barred owl
Barred owl nesting in an evergreen tree


Great horned owls use existing nests of other birds and have been known to nest along the trails surrounding Happy Days Lodge. They are often referred to as “tigers of the sky” for their ability to tackle any prey their size, including other owls, and approaching with complete silence and pinpoint accuracy.

Barred owls often nest within patches of evergreen trees. Look and listen for them along the Tree Farm and Oak Hill trails.

Eastern screech owl
Eastern screech owl in red phase coloring


Screech owl coloring is referred to as either grey or red phase due to rusty or dark gray patterned plumage. On bright sunny days, look for them capturing the warm sunlit rays from their nesting cavities, typically in large sycamore trees. You will need to look closely, for the small owls are usually well camouflaged.

Always observe owls from a distance and stay at least 75 yards from an active nest.

Coyote tracks in the snow
Coyote tracks in the snow


Also This Month
When walking along the Tree Farm Trail, it is often possible to see wintering golden-crown kinglets and red-breasted nuthatches. This is also a great trail for finding coyote and red-squirrel tracks after it snows.

Unusual small flocks of purple finches are frequently seen along the edges of old fields and forests surrounding Oak Hill. Along the Ledges trails look for feeding pileated woodpeckers on decaying large oak trees.


Last updated: April 10, 2015

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