Now, -h, since you have written about the LEOW for Currie, mayhaps you should post YOUR letter on our blog. ;-) With a preface from you briefly descibing the ping-pong match going back in forth.... , "It came to our attention that the Regional Editor for NA Birds was more interested in details about the Long-eared Owl than the...." .
...well, alright. Since I was the sneaky punk that posted to Texbirds in the beginning, madly flailing LEOW information everywhere because, quite frankly, they're SUPERAWESOME with laser eyes(!!!) ...ahem, I didn't think it would be less than a "stop the press" critter. I mean, of course, the earliest record EVER for Golden-cheeked Warbler is quite something. So I did expect details required for that. Eventually. LEOW, on the other hand is not an annually reported critter for the state of Texas (though they're likely present, just quite good at avoiding birders), and they have amazing superpowers of Elusive, Camouflage, Stealth, Evergreen, Ninja, Winter and, as previously mentioned, Laser Eyes. Who knew birding was so cool?!
An artist's rendition of (Long-eared) Owl:
Right, I did e-mail D.D. about the critter...
I was curious about what feedback the LEOW would get!
Matt and I were walking the paved section of the Shinnery Ridge Trail between the first and second benches when something small-hawk-sized flushed from the left side of the trail. I'd anticipate Accipiters in there, but the tail was a bit wider than I'd have assumed, but nothing particularly caught my interest about a disappearing tail. Hence, not sure if it was a second bird.
A few yards before the second bench (and maybe a few paces from where we startled the first bird), a round-faced, ear-tufted, medium owl flushed from ~9' off the ground in a dense juniper. It flew across the path in front of us with quiet flaps that were distinctly buffy in color. I scurried up the path a bit more and caught it looking square at me, perched in a more open spot - my only experience with LEOW is one roadkill from Taylor Co in March of last year, so the buffy/peach split facial disk immediately startled that memory - I've got plenty of Eastern/Western and limited Whiskered Screech experience, the bird was far too large and slender, warmly/darkly mottled for any of the Screech types. Short-eared is a giant stump of buffy mass and would have been very confused to pick dense juniper habitat, not to mention the conflict in ear tuft size and facial pattern. I grew up around Barred Owls, so that was immediately eliminated due to wrong face and body color/type. The bird fit into the "small GHOW" category, with the startling yellow eyes and slender, long ear tufts. The buffy flight fits nicely into the LEOW category and the dark back when perched also fits - I only had a ~2 second staring contest before the critter took off as Matt caught up with me. As said, the peachy split facial disk, size and elongated ear tufts cinched the ID for me (as it didn't call).
Matt didn't get a look at the face but did track it a bit as it flushed further along (I didn't feel the urge to spook it more than necessary, let it hinder his views) and says he definitely got good looks at the underside of the wings in flight with the dark spot near the wrist, contrasting with the buffy tones. The tail did have barring and was relatively long.
Hope this was helpful, let me know if there are any other factoids you'd like information on!
in closing, i should note that prepositions are things that i enjoy ending sentences with ;-)