Yesterday a Barred Owl was reported to eBird from the University of Guelph Arboretum, so this morning Pilar Manorome and I tried to find it, and were successful in under half an hour. I was scoping out a distant Bald-faced Hornet nest (anybody who has gone looking for Barred Owls will know that they can be very similar-looking, and far more common!), when Pilar spotted it surveying it's surroundings just beside the trail ahead of us.
Barred Owls are uncommon in this area, but regularly come south in years of good rodent summers (resulting in lots of baby owls) and/or bad rodent winters. Judging by the ridiculous density of Deermice in Algonquin Park this summer it should be a pretty good winter for seeing Barred Owls in Southern Ontario. Check your local deciduous woodlots over the next few weeks as these owls move south!
What's good for seeing owls is not necessarily good for the owls themselves though. Like most of the Barred Owls I've seen outside of their usual haunts today's bird was actively hunting in broad daylight, something well-fed birds on the breeding grounds rarely or never do. Still, a Barred Owl successfully wintered here in 2012-2013, and hopefully this bird can too.
The other highlight today was a male Eastern Towhee, the latest fall bird I've ever seen and not a particularly common migrant at any time. Even though the landbird mix may seem wintry out there already, November is great for these occasional surprises.