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Whoooo's at Darby?
|Photo courtesy of Metro Parks
|The short-eared owl has been spotted at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park. This photo was taken by Tim Daniel.
Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park has had a rare visitor this winter - the short-eared owl.
Tim Taylor, a naturalist at Metro Parks, said seeing one of these owls in central Ohio is like spotting a bald eagle.
"It's something people seldom get to see," said Taylor.
There have been a number of short-eared owl sightings at Battelle Darby. They are at the park for one reason - food.
"This is really a case of if you build it, it will come," said Taylor.
Metro Parks started to reintroduce tall grass prairies and wetlands at Battelle Darby approximately 30 years ago.
According to Taylor, in the early 1800s, the area that is now Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park was filled with prairie grass. Then John Deere invented the plow. The prairie grass disappeared due to agriculture.
Three decades ago, Jack McDowell, an employee at Metro Parks, started planting a seed base to grow back the prairie grass. He started with nothing. Today, there are about 600 acres of tall prairie grass at Battelle Darby.
Taylor said as the grass began to grow, the animals started to reappear. One of those animals was the meadow vole, which is a small rodent. The meadow vole is a favorite dish of the short-eared owl.
"This is the first year we are really seeing numbers of these owls," said Taylor.
The short-eared owl is typically found in the northern prairie states and Canada. Taylor said they seldom nest in Ohio, even though they do travel south for the winter.
Unlike other species of owl, the short-eared owl is more active in the early morning or early evening. They fly low over the grass to listen for voles or other small mammals.
Recently, Battelle Darby Creek Park held a spontaneous owl event, where Taylor would try to call the owls so visitors could catch a glimpse. The screech owl, barred owl and great horned owl can also be found at Darby Park.
The park will host Owls of February at 6 p.m. Feb. 20. Naturalists will try to lure the elusive owls in for a closer look. Those interested in attending, can meet at the Indian Ridge Bulletin Board. For more information on Metro Parks events, visit www.metroparks.net.
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