By Eamon Corbett
A spate of recent owl sightings on campus inspired us to have a walk around the yard this past Saturday (10/17) looking for roosting owls and whatever else happened to be around. We were unable to spot any owls (which wasn’t terribly surprisingly– they are very tricky to find), but there was still plenty to see!
Ten of us met at John Harvard and first searched the yard near PBHA, where Corey had spotted an owl at night a couple weeks ago. No luck, but we did get a nice snack from the apple tree growing there. While looking for owls in the trees, we also tried to identify the trees themselves, and found plenty of species: catalpa, swamp white oak, larch, locust, redbud, sweetgum, elm, horsechestnut, and many more. We also had a Red-tailed Hawk fly over Mass Ave.
On the way past Memorial Church we spotted a tiny bird fluttering around Tercentary Theater: a migratory Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a cute bird that never sits still for more than a split second.
In front of Robinson Hall we checked out the small grove of dawn redwoods, a fascinating “living fossil” that was thought to have been extinct for millions of years before it was rediscovered in China in the 1940s and brought to the US by Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum. Despite being a conifer it is not an evergreen, but the leaves had not yet fallen, making a home for squirrels, jays, and a large wasp nest.
The same area also has some black walnut trees, and we tried to salvage a bite or two of walnut, with limited success, especially compared to the gray squirrels that we saw munching on the tough seeds without any trouble.
There was a red-tailed hawk on top of Sever, but the large white pines behind the building were unfortunately devoid of owls.
We tried two more spots where there had been sightings, but with similar lack of success. There was plenty to look at though: an impressive tuliptree outside the Barker Center (a major feature of our logo), the vivid scarlet and crimson leaves of winged euonymous and sugar maples, fragrant spicebush stems, colorful cardinals and blue jays, and in Lev courtyard a small flock that contained both kinglet species: Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned!
In the end we didn’t see any owls, but looking for them was a great excuse to get outside on a beautiful autumn afternoon and see what nature Harvard Yard had to offer!