Friday night is one of my normal birding nights. Dave and I will go to one of our usual hot spots and yesterday was no different. As we walked we saw a lot of the “usual” birds: robins, Canada Geese, a Carolina Wren, Grackles, Cardinals, woodpeckers, etc. It seemed like a typical Friday night. It was relaxing and we were happy with what we saw.
And then something extra awesome happened.
There it was in a tree across the river: a Great Horned Owl! I love Great Horned Owls (well, all owls actually, but especially them). I finally got to see one up close!
Now this is not my first Great Horned Owl. It’s not actually the second either, but the fourth. However, it is the first one I’ve seen up close (it was probably about 40 yards away).
Seeing an owl in nature was something I wanted to experience even before being a birder. I’ve seen owls in educational settings at refuges and watch owl cams daily, but it just wasn’t the same. My first “wild” owl experience happened last August. Dave and I were walking through Boundary Creek at dusk when we heard them.
I froze. The owls called again. My heart was racing. There are Great Horned Owls living in our favorite park! We didn’t see any that night, but it was thrilling to just hear them. I knew we were getting close.
A few nights later we went back to Boundary with a mission. We just wanted a glimpse of these amazing birds. We knew we were there. So we watched and waited. Dave spotted them first. Across the creek we saw three figures in the trees. Their bodies were thick, dark brown, and we could spot ear tufts. Dave’s binoculars are slightly stronger than mine, and he was able to observe one turn its head. They were pretty far, but we were just able to make out enough details to confirm that we saw Great Horned Owls. Owlets will stay with their parents for a few months after fledging to learn to hunt, so it’s possibly that we were seeing a parent and two juveniles. I didn’t care how far away they were, I was so happy to have seen not just one, but three.
Yesterday night’s owl was a great surprise. It was sitting in a tree that had red leaves. Although this owl was a chestnut brown it blend into the leaves extremely well. It was across the river from us. It seemed quite content scoping out the surrounding landscape. It was close enough that you could see it without binoculars, but you really saw its details when using them.
It was beautiful and so captivating. At one point it looked directly at us. There’s nothing quite like making eye contact with an owl. For a brief moment you are part of that bird’s world, which is an amazing thing. It looked at us as if contemplating our existence. I imagined it wondering what we were and if it should leave or stay now that it knows we were watching it. After another minute it flew off. Dave tried to get a picture, but of course our camera auto focused on a branch so we have a picture of a blurry owl head. But it’s okay, I don’t need a picture. I have a picture in my mind that I surely won’t forget anytime soon. I was on cloud nine the rest of the night. It was another magical bird moment for me. 🙂
So yesterday started off as a seemingly normal birding night, but turned into something spectacular. I’ve said it before, but this is why I love birding. You never know what cool things you will see in nature.