Joyce and I went looking for owls one night during Labor Day weekend 2007. I have been on a few guided owl trips with the local bird clubs, but I have never successfully found any owls on my own. Joyce had never seen an owl in the wild.
I brought my iPod with the bird calls/songs loaded and a flashlight. Maybe this is cheating, but we went to the same places the Harford Bird Club trip went to on an owl trip last year. At our first stop, the sky was not quite dark. I played the Barred Owl song a few times (it sounds like "who cooks for you?") and had no replies. We then decided to drive a few miles down the road, to a place the club saw Screech Owls last year.
I played the Screech Owl song a few times. This bird sounds like a Halloween ghost, with a creepy whinnying sound. After just a couple of tries I heard a screech owl calling back. When a live one is there, it sounds like it is much farther away than it really is. I got the flashlight out and scanned around the nearby trees and got lucky- the owl was right there on a branch alongside the road. Joyce had gone back to the car for a moment and she just got a glimpse of the bird as it flew away.
We went back to the first place looking for the Barred Owls again. I played the tape just once and was rewarded with a very loud, very close reply. The bird was right there, by the parking lot. It flew back and forth over the lot several times, and it perched on branches in clear view. My photos did not come out very well, but Joyce and I both got very good looks at this owl. We heard a second one in the distance too.
So we were successful in our first un-guided owl walk. We hope to find more owls during our upcoming trip to Cape May, NJ.