Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Persistance, Patience, & Payoff

    I vowed to make this a worthy owl season, before this past year, the only owls I have ever seen in the wild were snowies (and no, I am not complaining). I wanted to be able to see other species too, respectfully, and I have now (and can officially say) seen 4 species of owls, all in the last few months, Snowy, Great Horned, Eastern Screech (red), and today--- the Barn!
     I headed after work to seek one out in one of their well known haunts, did some professional networking with folks I met (seriously, it's the best hobby to meet people in, and especially in my field). I was told that I would have to wait till sundown to see this bird-- and at that time it was 5pm... 2 very cold hours were in my future...
2 very cold hours that mostly looked like this.
And this. I was happy to hear spring peepers, squeaking and peeping their warmup for the evening ahead.
I passed a few moments to look out at waterfowl on another pond, lots of coots, ruddy ducks pretending to be coots, N. shovelers, gulls, cormorants, fish crows, and a few lesser scaup in the mix.
Female ruddy duck.

Male ruddy duck.
Back at my post I spotted a snapping turtle, on which a mallard almost landed!
An osprey flew by, with something in its crop! Dinner! Oh, and at this point, my tum was wanting dinner too.
We also saw a muskrat- at this point, there were three of us, testing our patience and our body's endothermic abilities as shivering began to kick in. By this point, we are commited, we have been standing for well over an hour and a half, and now, we are in it to win.
As the sun sank lower, light and warmth declined, the spring peepers picked up their tune and then we saw some movement, and up came this face. Barn owls are also called ghost owls, for their ghostly white appearance and also monkey-faced owls, well, their heart shaped face looks similar to those of some primates. This is just after my 2 hour mark of waiting.
Was it worth the 2 hours? YES. I sat observing, watching, listening and payoff- it feels so rewarding. This was a life bird for me, a first owl for one of the folks with me, and the first barn owl for my coworker who joined me too. It was a first for all three of us and we celebrated in sharing the moment together.
Barn owls can and do live in barns, and unlike the traditional owl "hooting" sound, they make this ghostly shriek of a sound.
The great thing about this viewing area is it does a great job of keeping the owls safe and distant from observers. All these photos are taken from a blind, zoomed in at 300mm, cropped. It is most important for all nesting owls and all nesting birds to be given proper distance.
With violent shivering beginning to kick in, we decided to let this owl wake up to begin its day and for us to seek out warm cars, warm dinners, and warm homes. Payoff comes to those who are patient, super stoked to have had the privilege to see this bird.