Monthly Archives: October 2012

Eric M. Velez, an animal control officer with the T.J. O’Connor Animal Control and Adoption Center, holds a Barred Owl that had spent most of Thursday roosting at the entrance to the Holyoke Health Center on Maple Street. Earlier in the day, officials believed the owl would leave its perch once darkness fell. But, when it didn’t, Velez took the owl into custody as a precautionary measure. (c) Greg Saulmon / The Republican 2012

Every once in a while my interest in birds and my day job in the world of breaking news intertwine.

Today, I got a tip at the office that an owl was roosting at the entrance to the Holyoke Health Center complex on Maple Street, which is about a block from my apartment. I was tied up with other tasks, and finally got out there nearly two hours later. I was happy (and lucky) to find the owl still there, with a whole lot of people stopping by to take pictures.

An animal control officer eventually captured the owl later in the evening as a precautionary measure when the bird didn’t leave its perch after nightfall. After spending the night Springfield’s T.J. O’Connor Animal Control and Adoption Center, the owl will likely be transferred to the very capable hands of Tom Ricardi.

I’ll post more later — but for now, here are two stories and a photo gallery I posted over the course of my work day:

Barred Owl roosts, draws crowd at Holyoke Health Center

Barred Owl roosting at Holyoke Health Center rescued in joint operation by city fire and police, T.J. O’Connor animal control officer

Photos: Barred Owl makes appearance at Holyoke Health Center


A Belted Kingfisher flies over the empty bed of Holyoke’s first-level canal just after sunset Sunday evening. (c) Greg Saulmon 2012

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how paying attention to food sources can help you find birds.

After all, the two factors that drive the annual spring and fall migrations are nesting locations and food. As the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s page on migration reminds us, “Escaping the cold is a motivating factor but many species, including hummingbirds, can withstand freezing temperatures as long as an adequate supply of food is available.”

Find a plentiful food source, and you’ll probably find birds. This is especially helpful for finding birds in a city: if you were a bird, where (and what) would you eat?

Twice each year, the city of Holyoke drains its canal system for maintenance. And, I’ve noticed over the years, this subtle change always draws a few interesting species downtown. In the past I’ve seen herons and egrets. Last night, I found a Belted Kingfisher making low passes over the empty first-level canal near Heritage State Park at Appleton Street.

With the canals empty, new food sources are suddenly exposed. Birds are suddenly free to poke around in the mud and muck; any fish in the canals end up sitting ducks, trapped in the few puddles left behind. The ducks, meanwhile, can forage in the weeds that grow along the canal beds.

The canals only stay empty for about a week, so I’ve only got a few days to record my observations.

But, I’ll be keeping this in mind as we head through the rest of the fall migration and on through winter: where in this city can a bird grab a bite to eat?