Rewriting the Book
Citizen scientists track down an elusive owl in Indiana’s forests
It’s a clear, moonless November night. No wind. Zillions of stars.
A mile or so to the south, a dog barks. Then, much closer, a branch creaks. Ross Brittain, BA’89, MPA/MSES’06, PhD’09, sucks in his breath and lets out a soft, short call. He waits a few minutes. Then, it comes. A response from the blackness.
“Magical,” says Brittain, describing the moment when an owl returns a call in the night.
Brittain, the Indiana director of bird conservation for the National Audubon Society, heard his first Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) in the mid-1990s at McCormick’s Creek State Park near Spencer, Ind. A few years later, in 1999, he had his first close encounter with the tiny owls while visiting Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania during the fall raptor migration. At the time, Brittain lived in Bloomington where he owned the local Wild Birds Unlimited store.