I recently heard that there was a barred owl and a short-eared owl seen at Nisqaully NWR, so I started to visit more often in the last few weeks to try and get photos of both. I spotted the barred owl in an area not far from the parking lot and have seen it several times since, including two owls (possible a male and female) together. The barred owl is a large species of owl largely native to eastern North America but in the last century or so has increased its range to the Pacific Coast where its preferred habitat is mature deciduous forests. It has spread so successfully and moved into old growth forests that it is now considered invasive and has become a threat to the native Spotted Owl, a threatened species listed on the endangered species list. This threat is not only because of predation by the barred owl, but also the barred owl is more aggressive and will out compete the spotted owl for food. Regardless, it is always exciting to see an owl in the forests.
I was fortunate to see the short-eared owl in the marsh area but it was too far away to get a decent photo, just one that was mostly out of focus. However, I was able to confirm the owl as a short-eared owl (and two other birders who were watching the owl confirmed the sighting as well). I have not seen this bird since and some biologists I have spoken to believe the owl was killed by a Northern Harrier which has been seen constantly harassing the owl. While I personally do not believe that is the case, I will continue to search. =efh=