Monday, April 13, 2009
Whenever I go for a walk - whenever I go out, for that matter - I am always looking, observing, watching, to see what I can see. And whenever I am in a place where I might see owls, I look especially carefully for owls. They are amazing and wonderful and shy - hard to find. So I basically never see them. I saw a barred owl, several years ago, on a walk, but haven't seen any wild ones in ages, though I hear them fairly frequently. Some neighbors up the hill had a great horned owl pair nest in their yard - lucky! But TODAY was my lucky day. I was in a mixed woodland - maple, pine, oak, some birch - when I stopped to take a photo of these red maple blossoms and as I was focusing the camera, a large bird flew out of nowhere; at least it seemed like that to me. It must have come from fairly near, if not in, that maple. At first I thought it was a red-tailed hawk - we have loads of those around here, and while they are amazing birds, it is not really exciting to see one as they are so common. This large raptor flew to a nearby tree, and I could see by the way it perched that it was not a red-tail. It was shaped like an owl. It turned its head and I could see two "ear-tufts" on its head. A great horned owl! I was thrilled, and though I had the camera out, the bird flew off before I could get a shot. My heart was beating wonderfully and I was practically gasping - I love these birds, and while I've seen captive ones often, and even handled one on occasion, to see one in the wild is a spectacular experience. I followed after it for a while, but could not see where it had flown to, so I gave up and will just savor the memory.
Those "ear-tufts" are not ears at all, by the way. The owl's ears are on the sides of its head, not so different from ours, though they are at different heights so the owl can triangulate the location of its prey.