While living at Limberlost, Gene Stratton-Porter wrote, “The owl can afford to be silent
of the wing, it so dominates the night with its voice. It would give me great satisfaction if
I had some way of knowing surely whether other birds sleep serenely...or whether they
are awake and shutter in fear.” Gene was in awe of owls. Adorning her carved bed that is
still in the cabin, the owl is one of the main motifs.
Short-eared owls have been one of Limberlost’s winter birds for the past four years. In
2011, Jim Haw, a Fort Wayne birder, noted the restored Limberlost Swamp Wetlands
Preserve (Adams/Jay Co line) were ideal habitat for short-eared owls. On November 23
of that year, he discovered that the short-eared owls were indeed at Limberlost. The owls
were seen a number of times around dusk and into the evening hours over the next few of
months. Several people came from a distance to see these beautiful birds.
The owls returned the next year on November 22 2012. On November 22 2013, Randy
Lehman and I had at least two at dusk in the same location where they were previously
observed. Five short-eared owls were observed by Dave Reichlinger and I on December
13. The owls were still in the area and were counted on the Christmas Bird Count on
January 1 2014. On November 15 2014, Randy and I had one perched on the 900N sign
and then in flight at dusk.
It is a special sight to view these masters of the night. They are so silent and seem to
glide. It is fascinating to watch them on the wing together almost in a playful fashion.
The owls like to perch about three to four feet off the ground. When in flight and hunting
they are usually low to the ground.
Amos W. Butler, known as the father of Indiana Ornithology and was a friend of Gene
Stratton-Porter. In 1907, while on the board of the Indiana Audubon Society, he tried to
convince “every open-minded person” as to the great benefit of owls because they eat
small animals and insects that are “destructive enemies of the farmers’ crops.”
We wish these magnificent birds safe travels on the wing back to their summer breeding
grounds further north in the United States and Canada. We now anxiously anticipate their
return every November to their winter home at Limberlost.