April 20 2018. I am being deliberately evasive about where I saw owls today. Birders tend to be reluctant to share the location of owls they’ve seen because of some historical tension between two camps who you would expect to see eye to eye on most things, birders and bird photographers. Purist birders are in the “Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints.” camp, while some bird photographers, a very small minority I’m sure, have shown little regard for the well being of an owl in the quest for a possible money-shot photograph.
The upshot of a few years of rancour is that I, like most birders, withhold the location of owls that might be considered photogenic. I carry a camera almost every time I’m birding and I have my own opinions on the subject but this is not the place for them.
The first of today’s owls was a young Great Horned Owl, so young that at first there was some concern it might have crash landed on its maiden flight the evening before and been unable to take off again. I was one of a team concerned for its safety so went to look for it at first light. We were happy to find it apparently fine and it was last seen on a safe perch well above ground level. Here it is.
Don’t be misled by its cuteness, it’s talons will pierce flesh and its beak can rip it into digestible chunks.
Much later today, a trio of companions and I conducted a transect/survey along one of our set routes. For a while we cursed the continuing icy winds wondering if they would ever let off. The birding was quite good but the need to wear gloves got in the way a bit. Still, as if to confirm that there are better days ahead, we watched a Yellow-rumped Warbler, my first of the year (although a few have been reported by others over the last week), a Swamp Sparrow (heard but not seen) was another first and an Eastern Phoebe a second of the year; it’s starting to come together.
Wood Ducks, we recorded twenty-six of them, were busy greeting, chasing and socializing, most that we could see were gaudy males, suggesting the females may already be hidden from sight incubating a clutch of eggs, but the females are quite cryptically coloured so it’s equally possible we couldn’t pick them out against the shoreline debris.
My second owl today, an Eastern Screech Owl, was spotted barely visible in a wide cavity on the sunny side of a hickory.. Two owls in one day is a happy accomplishment, and Yellow-rumped Warbler and Swamp Sparrow notwithstanding, they made my day; Birds of the Day.