1/29/2009

Long eared owl in Massachusetts

I’m obviously a fanatical owl watcher. Ironically this blog is called the owlbox blog, even though I’ve never had an owl nesting in my owl box. I was chatting with the rest of my Bloggerhead Kingbird team mates saying maybe I should rename the blog to owlessowlbox. I’m sure you’ll agree that even though this is technically correct, it is a very wordy web address. If I was smart, I would have used a very clever name like Christopher at the Picusblog. Maybe I would have thought about Buboblog in honor of the cool Eagle owl Genus in SA, which includes the pink eyelids of the Giant Eagle Owl. By the way, for those of you hoo are wondering, Bubosblog is already taken. Turns out this is a blog not about little kids with ouchies, but rather a blog aimed at having fun with mythology….hmmm. Wow, where did that tangent come from. This post is not about changing my blog name nor the lack of nesting Screech owls in my owlbox (even though that still stings – a little), but rather about finding a super cool owl.

My obsession with owls takes on many forms. One of those forms is a special avian paranoia where I am constantly imaging that each and every tree has an owl hiding in it, somewhere. On Saturday during the Superbowl of birding we drove through one of the local State Reserves and I mentioned to anyone who would listen, that those Pitch Pines probably have a Saw whet or Long eared owl (LEO) in them. Christopher mentioned that the Pines had indeed had LEO in them. I scanned the trees with delusional optimism as we drove through onto our next stop.

On Sunday we went back to look for the incredible White winged Crossbills that had been seen in the same spot. As we got up to the pines, we noticed two older gentlemen precariously setting up their VERY large tripods crammed with optics that looked more like weapons of mass destruction, than powerful birding lenses. We all whipped out our bins scanning the tree for Crossbills. One by one we confirmed the fact that no Crossbills were present. “I bet you they’re looking at an owl”, I piped up. I’m sure the team thought ‘here he goes again’, although no one said anything. Luckily they all agreed that we needed to go investigate the mystery invisible bird. As we hopped out of the car I blurted that I had a great feeling about this.

We made our way over, still constantly scanning the tree. By this time the gentlemen were crouched in what looked like back breaking positions shooting up into the rather stubby pine. “What are you guys looking at” one of us casually inquired. “An owl” I heard one of the gentlemen say! Yeeha, yippee, hooray – we found an owl without any serious leg work, what a find. The gentleman directed us to the only spot that had a direct line of sight to the owl. The only problem was that his buddy was hogging the space and snapping pictures like they were going to stop producing memory cards tomorrow.

Being the smallest of our crew, N8 managed to get a decent look at the owl even though he was sharing some serious personal space with memory card man. I snuck up behind them and did my best to get a look. Holy schmoly we had ‘found’ a magnificent Long eared owl (LEO)! After patiently waiting for both memory man and the original gentlemen to fill their memory cards with what must be mind blowing shots of the LEO, I managed to get some INCREDIBLE views of the LEO. Although I’ve been lucky enough to have seen LEOs on several occasions this is the first time that I’ve had an unobstructed views of a LEO face at close/photographable range.


In order to really appreciate how lucky we were, compare these shots to the PA owl that I found HIGH up in a Pine tree.


Now try to find the LEO I found in Mercer county. I promise that the owl is in fact visible in this photo. Click for the full size photo.


After succumbing to the same memory card fever the other gentlemen had clearly suffered from, I finally relinquished center LEO viewing stage and joined the others on a new quest for Crossbills. I’ll cover the Crossbills in another post, but let’s just say I was VERY happy to have seen a LEO and Crossbills in the same day. On Friday Christopher had dared one of us to dive into a snow bank and even I looked at him like that would be CRAZY. Well after a magnificent weekend of birding, I decided that he might be onto something and I did a modified rear tumbling swan dive. All the judges (except the French judge), awarded me with a 5.0/5.0 for effort – technical scores were a little lower.

My only regret with the awesome LEO story was that I didn't take pcitures of the precarious shooting postion that was required to get a clear shot of the owl as well as not taking photos of the owl's relative location in the tree.

11 comments:

Richard said...

Absolutely magnificent shots.

N8 said...

You got some really nice shots. As cold as it was, I completely forgot about it when that bird was in front of me.

Patrick Belardo said...

Great post! Incidentally, that Bubosblog shows a photo of Bubo from Clash of the Titans. I loved that movie as a kid and still do.

Darn that French judge.

Owlman said...

Thanks Richard, the owl sure made it easy for us which is pretty rare for any owl.

N8, I know what you mean. I was crouching in the snow and only afterwards did I think about the fact that jeans aren't exactly waterproof.

Patrick, thanks for the headsup. The French judges are pretty shy with the big points. Luckily I've got over it.

dAwN said...

Great fun...You sure sound like a fun birding gang. Glad you got to see your owl.

Lynne said...

I'm happy for you Owlman!!!

L.L. said...

Wow, those are amazing shots. I'm kind of jealous, I have to say, I've never seen a LEO in person, so shots like those are very special. Nice work :-)

Owlman said...

dAwN - the gang was a blast to bird with. All of them were super knowledgable, but still down to earth guys with excellent humor dripping from them.

Thanks Lynne, any owl is worth celebrating in my book.

L.L is takes lotsa time, patience and to find these cool owls. In our case we just got super lucky, although I've spend lotsa time and been very patient without any success.

Thanks for stopping in ladies, it was great to hear from you!

BLRem said...

Gorgeous photos of a beautiful bird - congrats! I had to laugh at the positions that were required to photograph....I'm always surprised when I start freezing out in the woods because I had been kneeling/laying in the snow shooting just prior....something about being caught in the moment throws "common sense" out the window! ;)

Sounds like you guys had a fabulous weekend in NE!
-Barbara

Owlman said...

Barabra, this was a pretty tough assignment given the cold but I didn't even notice it until I got up. The nice thing was that we had a pretty clear path to the owl once you contorted your body correctly!

Anonymous said...

awesome blog, do you have twitter or facebook? i will bookmark this page thanks. peace maria

Incredible photos shared by the Flickr community group - Owls of North America. Click on the play button to begin the slideshow - ENJOY!