Ode to Owls

I had plans to go birding tonight with Corey from 10,000 Birds but heavy rain through half of the day put an end to that idea.  So I’m sitting at home as stuck in my current location as are many of the neotropical migrants trying to make it through this soup.

Luckily it was a slow day at work so I sat there and fondly rememberd some of the trips I have taken for birds over the last couple of years.  Here is a sample:

The first one is one of the few local rare birds I have ever chased.  Shortly after Christmas one year, a pair of birders from out of state visiting family over the holiday in the middle of nowhere, stumbled upon a NORTHERN HAWK-OWL.  Those who know me, know I tend to avoid chasing, but week after week went by and everyone was seeing this bird.  People were coming from Ohio, Maryland and Virginia to see this bird, I decided I had to too.

My first attempt was on my birthday in February.  It was very cold and very windy.  Danika and I along with a lot of other people parked in front of the house, with the lone tree that the bird liked to hunt from.  With snow drifts over 12 feet and winds over these open agricultural area up to 50 mph, the bird spent the day elsewhere.  One of 2 days the bird didn’t show up.  We also happened to be there the second day it didn’t show up.  Feeling cursed we almost gave up. 

One morning we decided to try and fool the bird.  I cut class and school and we made an unplanned visit to the site.  Weeks had passed since the bird was first sighted and the crowds had all but gone away, especially on a weekday.  We arrived at the spot and again no Owl.  We drove down the road futher and saw a car load of ancient birders pulled off to the side of the road looking a group of evergreen tree’s.  We stopped and they happily pointed out the Owl near the top of a tall evergreen!  Yes!  We got to see it.

We spent a few more hours riding around and decided to check it’s ‘normal’ spot once more and for once it was actually there.  This was before we had a digital SLR, so the picture is not as good as we could get now. But you can at least tell what it is.

Northern Hawk Owl

Following that trip up, in late 2004 it became clear that there was going to be a large invasion of northern Owls, especailly GREAT-GRAY OWLS.  Soon the reports from the Ottawa Valley began to list Great-Gray Owls in the dozens and birders south of the border eagerly awaited them to come.  They never did (actually one, that’s it).  So we were forced to go to them. 

Since Ottawa is a pain in the rear to get to from Albany, Danika and I were happy to hear that some birds were being seen in some of the suburban parks in Montreal, Quebec.  Since we love Montreal anyway, my wife and I needed little excuse to go.  So off we went to Montreal for a get away weekend.

We headed off to a park on the Isle Bizzard, which is a suburb to the east of Metro Montreal.  Upon arriving, we found another car with US plates, predictably a Subaru (LL Bean edition) with the birders dressed and carrying equipment costing more than I think I made that year.  We decided to wait and let them get on the path (we were not much for socializing).  Once they were out of sight, Danika and I prepared to head out.  As we were getting our stuff together a couple of joggers went by and asked us if we were looking for the Owls.  We replied yes and they informed us that there was one just up the road, right next to the road.  We jumped into the car and sped up the road and there it was.  Again this was before we had a digital SLR, so I shudder to think about the pictures we could get now.  This Owl was active mid-morning and less than 10′ from us.

Great Gray Owl, Montreal, PQ

The last owl is from this past winter at Ft. Edward in Washington, County New York.  Many SHORT-EARED OWLS spent the winter in this large agricultural area.  By late winter upwards of 40 birds a day were being seen in a large roost on a side road.  As a result these normally difficult birds to find, were very easy not only to find but to photograph.

The first trip was early in the year with my wife Danika.  There were fewer Owls then and they tended not to come out until closer to dusk.  As a result the light of this next picture wasn’t great, but I love it for some reason.  Maybe it’s because I know that this Owl was going to make it through the winter. (Note we had the Digital SLR by this time).

Short-Eared Owl Feeding

Later on that same winter, Corey and I had one heck of a day in the Adirondacks chasing Crossbills, Boreal Chickadees and Gray Jays.  We decided to make a stop at Ft. Edward on the way home.  We had near perfect light and the Owls were resting on hay bales along the side of the road.  I am very proud of this next picture!

Short-Eared Owl, Ft. Edward, NY

If my scanner wasn’t broken I would also have a charming story about an Eastern-Screech Owl that decided it wanted to welcome everyone to a small New York town, but I can save that for another day!

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3 responses to “Ode to Owls

  1. Pingback: Ode to Owls « New York Outdoors Blog

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