Merlin. Before arriving at the park proper, I decided to drive around the adjacent farm fields looking for Snowy Owls. No owls, but this Merlin was perched over the road.
Merlin. I stopped the car (the road was deserted at the moment), rolled down my window, and took a few pictures. The falcon never budged from its perch.
Long-eared Owl. At the park I was walking along the wooded portion of Black Billed Cuckoo Trail scouting for possible Great Horned Owl nesting locations when my heart skipped a beat: right on the trail was this Long-eared Owl!
Long-eared Owl. This is my first Long-ear sighting in Oatka, though I have had many in Owl Woods.
Long-eared Owl. A video of this owl is at http://youtu.be/33yibB_BID0 .
Eastern Towhee. Another surprise! What is this summertime bird doing here in winter?
Eastern Towhee. The area Christmas Bird Count usually turns up a towhee on its list, so this is not unheard of. It is still rare, however!
Purple Finches. Another pleasant surprise! Though a fairly common winter visitant in our area, I haven't seen Purple Finches at Oatka in nearly a year.
Purple Finch. This is the female.
Purple Finch. The finches sure enjoyed eating the seed pods in the foreground.