Ah, Tuesday September 2nd... the day after Labour Day. I always hated Labour Day as kid.
Phot courtesy of our friends at the Mountsberg Raptor Centre in Campbelville.
The adults loved it because of it being a long weekend, and more so, because the kids went back to school. So, here I am, all adult like now (usually) and was really enjoying a morning walk in a park very near our house without a child to seen, and even better... heard.
I had an errand to run that morning and thought about going for a walk after. With the kids back in school, the parks are more or less mine again in the AM. Plus our yard was eerily quiet and I wanted to see some birds.
I parked the truck in the lot of a park that I will not make mention of publicly as you will soon understand why. And as I got out, my first views showed little activity of any bird life but the lack of people about made me up for the adventure of a hunt.
I scanned the trees and shrubs with my bins. I scanned just above the tall grass. Nothing. Suddenly there was a large dark shadow that passed over me. I look up and at first I thought it was a just a Gull, seeing lots of white at first glance. A big Gull I might add, but just a Gull. Then my birding brain kicked in, it hasn't been used a whole lot this summer, and something told me to look again, and really look this time. It was a little cloudy this morning and nothing really showed on the bird at first, I took notice to it's size, it's shape, saw some darker coloring on it... and then in my head I shouted "Holy s**t! It's an Osprey!"
This was quite exciting for me. I rarely see Osprey. Sure I know where I can see some but I don't travel much like I once did when I had a 4 day work week. The weekends are so short, so precious, and Angie and I really like to enjoy our backyard in the summer months.
What was even more exciting is the fact this bird was circling so close to our home. The park is less than 3 minutes drive. See, I keep a list of birds that visit our backyard but there is also a sub-list of birds seen from the yard. So while watching this Osprey, I was debating racing home to the backyard and spotting him from our property. I knew I would be able to see him from there if he stayed in this area, and with my feet on our property, I could count him. Even from my standing point here in the park, I could tell he was over our house a few times with those circles. But I'm a very honest counter, so I didn't count him. And I decided to push on with a walkabout here as that was my initial intention.
The Osprey's shadow teased me a few more times with the little bit of sun we had. I still argued on racing home and then coming back.
I headed west and slowly the Osprey disappeared south/east, obviously heading to the lake. His appearance was indeed a sign of summer's end and fall migration was happening.
As I tuned out some nearby traffic, I tuned in to an Eastern Wood Peewee calling out. I could not find the bird in the trees, and I paused for a moment to see if I could spot him flying out from a branch, catching an insect and returning to the same branch. It's what they do and I enjoy watching this when I do spot them. But hearing his call was music to my ears. I like their little call. If you don't know what they sound like, please check this link from someone who posted one on YouTube and you will get a nice view of the bird as well.
Some Blue Jays were screaming off in the distance. And every time I hear them go on a rant, I immediately start looking for a predator like a Hawk or an Owl. Of course this isn't always the case, sometimes Jays just like to scream because they have the voice to do so.
It was cool that the birds were starting to present themselves to me.
I walked a little further west and then from the corner of my eye I spotted something quite large roosting high up in a pine tree.
Even such a dark image like this, most people will immediately recognize this as an Owl.
I cranked the ISO and played with some other settings... and here she is...
This is the first wild Great Horned Owl I have seen in 2 years, give or take a week or two. And funny enough, I suspect this is the same bird as the last one I saw 24 months earlier. Hell, she's even in the same tree as memory comes back.
I do know of a couple other Great Horned Owls about the GTA but either I've not been able to find them in my travels or haven't bothered making the trek out to see them.
I saw this Owl 3 or 4 times back in late August/early September of 2012. After all this time had passed, I figured she had moved on. Even when a few weeks back I found some Great Horned Owl feathers in this park, they were a little ways off from here, I kinda passed it all off. So seeing her on this morning was a real treat. The rain was moving in, it was the beginning of a work week and here I am beaming away. Excellent bird sightings and surprise moments ROCK!
I didn't spend much time with her, I make it a rule not to. Just like I prefer not to publicly share Owl locations over the internet as you never know who may find this and come out to harass the Owl. Even celebrity Owl locations as we call them, I still would rather not say. As much as some people like to believe that an Owl sitting there staring at you and not flying away means they like you, that is not the case.
This Owl was really high up in the pine but with the tree on a slope, there is a vantage point at the top of the hill to get a better view of her. And having the 500mm lens sure helps get some decent photos.
While she was very aware of my presence, the distance between us, and the fact I was very quiet and still, had her relax again and start to doze off to sleep. I left her and wandered off in search of other birds. Proof here that there is no need to sit on a roosting Owl for such long periods of time as they aren't going to do anything or would rather not do something for a person's entertainment and photographs.
Over the next half hour or so, I found no other birds in my journey. It was nearing time to start work. So those two factors had me head back to the truck. Of course I have to pass the Owl one more time because it is the way to the parking area. She was awake again and watching some woman nearby with her off leash dog. If the dog was a smaller breed, I wondered if the Owl would make an attempt at it? We were told of such a story a while back where someone lost their prized $2,000 show dog to such an Owl because they let it off leash in the woods. I often use that story on people out and about with their little dogs running rampant in parks. It freaks most out, and some will leash their dogs, others scoff at such a ridiculous story and move along. One would think with the possibility of a Coyote attack on their pup would be enough, but now an Owl too, that they'd leash their dogs.
I tried to take a quick video before I left her and the park. It wasn't easy using the 500mm lens on full zoom and no tripod. It's not a great video but what the heck, here it is. I have a number of nature videos on my YouTube channel now, nothing real exciting, just stuff I've seen. Look me up at lilevl13 (that's lilevl and the number 13).
It was a real zen moment of peace and silence that morning, just me and the Owl. But I would have also really enjoyed sharing this with my wife and a few good friends. Maybe another day?