On Monday I was fortunate enough to chance upon this Long-eared Owl sitting right out in the open, in a west end Toronto park. I figure he was roosting in some low conifers and an off leash dog sent him fleeing. Long-ears aren't such show offs and are really tough to spot most times. This is my second "encounter" this winter with this species. Prior I had gone almost 2 years since last seeing one. I looked throughout last winter never finding anything more than a pellet or some spray.
Call it pure luck. No sense buying a 649 this week as all my luck has been spent on this bird.
It was an amazing moment, epic really. To my closer friends, add some expletives for emphasis. Quoting something I saw on Twitter not too long ago, "I was harder than a $3 jaw breaker!" Oh my gawd! Really?!?! Did I just say that? Are jaw breakers really three dollars now? Ha ha ha! And no, there was no sexual excitement at seeing this bird. Joking. Jeezus. LoL!
Okay, seriously... back to the blog... epic moment indeed. Envy of birders and photographers for one brief moment. I was in awe. How I got a few decent pics is beyond me. I was star struck. I kept a cool calm exterior while I was freaking out in my brain. The bird wasn't more than 30 ft away from me. I was on the path, and there he was in full view. I did not need to step any closer. I didn't even check the settings on my camera, I shot away a few photos while the bird looked around.
I watched him for a little bit before continuing up the path on my journey. I was going to pass the Owl, but still be 30 ft or more at any given time until getting to the other side of him. I expected him to flush at any moment. But he didn't. Not just yet anyway. I managed a couple side shots before he had enough of me and flew off to some distant conifers, disappearing out of sight.
I did not give chase. I was thankful for what I just had and that was more than good enough for me. I just hoped I had captured something with the camera to share.
I can never fully express the feeling of finding any Owl on your own. I'm talking about an unreported bird that isn't under the eyes of the bird paparazzi. Just one with the Owl, or maybe sharing the moment with some good friends or family. That stuff lasts a lot longer in the memories.
Please note I never have ill feelings towards anyone visiting the celebrity birds. Sometimes we just want a fix. Some seem to need a fix almost daily, like a heroin addict, and that I may have an issue with.
On Saturday we were in an area where such a celebrity bird is, and has been for a few years now. This place is approximately an hour from our home, so we seldom go. But if in the area, we do try to stop in and have a look for him. Sometimes we see him, sometimes we don't. Some will know the bird and the area immediately upon seeing this photo below. The thing for me this time is that he's moved roosting spots. I had a general idea on where to look thanks to a birding bud of ours Joanne, but there still was some searching with the bins to spot him, IF he was showing himself. Lucky for me, he was on the edge of his cavity at that moment and I had a nice view of him. I was happy there was no one else around, total peace and quiet, seeing him chilling out. After my view, I tuned into reality again (taking myself out of just the bird and I), viewing my surroundings, if I looked for this earlier, would have lead me to his new roost much quicker... there were foot prints everywhere leading to his tree, and some went right up to his tree. We see on birding pages countless people sharing photos of this Owl, some share shots week after week. Why? Anyways, seeing the prints right to the base of the tree... if I had of been on scene with someone right there at the base of his tree, I don't know what I would have said, but I do know the whole moment and feeling would have been much different. Unfortunately, some 4 hours later, when Angie and I were leaving the OEBS annual general meeting, I took her back through for a quick peek of him and he was gone. Another time, who knows when...
And, as I continue the blog...
Sometimes it's the only bird around. But is it really? In some cases, like a Great Gray or a Hawk Owl, ya, it probably is. As for Screeches, Saw-whets, Great Horns, Barreds, and Long-ears, so not the case. Screeches and Great Horns are year round birds, not just wintering like the others for the most part. It just takes work, sometimes a lot of work, research the birds, know their habitat and tune into the natural world. I tell people to listen to the other birds, know their calls, and learn what some mean, especially the alarm calls. Owls are elusive creatures, some of you have seen my blogs about them being masters of camouflage Don't be lazy. Make an adventure of it. Just get out, enjoy the day, see what you see and maybe you will be surprised at a discovery. Just don't go out expecting anything. With the above Long-eared, I went for a walk, taking in the returning Red-winged Blackbirds, looking out for other early migrants when I saw him. Zero expectation hence my overload of excitement (see the jawbreaker comment above).
We have a Screech Owl hanging out near our home. Sometimes I see him without any help. Sometimes the other birds alert me of his presence. See this short video link of mine to see what I am talking about. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7npg4nx4ac This is not the first time the birds have helped me find Owls. Crows have pointed out Great Horns and Barreds, Chickadees Downys and Nuthatches have alerted me to Screeches and Saw-whets, I've had Jays flush Long-ears for me in the past. I always say keep your eyes and ears open, and shut your mouth when on a nature walk, especially if you are trying to find an Owl.
Above mentioned Screech Owl barely visible.
But Spring arrives in mere hours, many Owl species will be leaving the GTA (greater Toronto area for those not from the area), and it's time to get ready for the Warblers, Tanagers, Cuckoos, Kinglets and so many others.
Time to get off this thing and enjoy the remainder of the day. I think you should too.