So, just as my title says... guess what we saw?
Okay, no point in playing a guessing game, it might take us days to finish.
On Saturday April 24, 2010, we saw our first wild, non-captive, Great Horned Owl. Holy schnikes! It was awesome! Talk about a massive bird of prey!
We were out in some woods near Oshawa and a friendly soul, whom we asked what he had seen, shared with us a rough idea on where an Owl had been spotted. We trekked about, enjoying the woods, and eventually found the an area that appeared much like his description... and then we found the landmark he had mentioned (a bench) and seconds later we were looking up at this Great Horned Owl sleeping in the tree. We were in awe! What was really funny is when locals passed us, asked us what we were looking at, we said "that Owl" and they replied with "oh yeah, there it is" with about as much enthusiasm as someone asking another to "please pass the salt"... and then they walked on.
We didn't stay for very long, looking up at this sleeping majestic giant as there seems to be some etiquette with Owl watching... it has been said to not disturb them and this means no flash photography, no hanging around for more than a few minutes, no yelling or phishing to try and get it's attention, no baiting (throwing live rodents out to see it come down for a feed)... stuff like that. Unfortunately these things do happen and in some cases the Owl becomes stressed, hurt or even killed. I have two stories of Owls that were killed by people baiting them for that prized shot. It's just stupid and horrible.
So, we gazed upon it through binoculars, I got the camera out and took 15 pics or so, using different settings but never the flash. I only hoped I got one really decent pic of him; and I think I did succeed.
As we left, we saw another with binoculars wandering about, I guess we payed it forward and showed this man the Owl. He was quite happy with this sighting as well.
Here are some cool facts about the Great Horned Owl... learn along with me as this is very new to me also.
- The Great Horned Owl is the only animal that regularly eats skunks. (I wonder how that is possible or even pleasurable with that scent bag?)
- The Great Horned Owl will take large prey, even other raptorial birds. It regularly kills and eats other owls, and is an important predator on nestling Ospreys. The reintroduction of Peregrine Falcons has been hampered in some areas by owls killing both adult and nestling falcons.
- The Great Horned Owl is a regular victim of harassment from flocks of American Crows. Crows congregate from long distances to mob owls, and may continue yelling at them for hours. The enmity of the crows is well earned, however, as the owl is probably the most important predator on adult crows and nestlings.