Thursday, April 7, 2011

Seriously, owls are awesome (and so are newts)

Today, in the woods, I saw my second owl.* It was a Great Horned Owl, and it was gorgeous.


Unlike the Barred Owl I stumbled upon a few weeks ago, I saw this Great Horned Owl only after I started specifically looking for it, so maybe I am learning something about bird watching after all. I was walking through the woods and I heard a group of crows making a huge ruckus up in the trees. I had read online about crows hating owls, and Megan N. had told me a story about spotting an owl once because it was being mobbed by crows, so I started watching for a big feathery predator... and then there it was. The crows chased the owl from tree to tree for several minutes before they finally flew off and left it alone. I was super excited to get to hang out with this guy (or girl) -- I've heard Great Horned Owls calling in these woods before, but they're so good at the camouflage thing, I almost certainly wouldn't have seen this owl if it hadn't been for the crows harassing it. (Sorry, owl, I hope you got some rest eventually.) Sooooo awesome. :D

OK, owls are great, but I saw other cool things today, too. Every time I go to the woods, I check the shallow edges of the lakes for amphibians, and today I had success -- the Red-spotted Newts are awake and wriggling! I love love love these guys (that's three "love"s), and I wish I could've gotten closer to them, but I was pressing my luck as it was, balanced precariously on rocks and leaning over the water to take pictures. There were a couple of times when I stepped just a little bit too far into soggy ground, and I definitely would've been in trouble if my boots hadn't been waterproof (thank goodness for that).

I also saw my first wildflower of the season today (besides the skunk cabbage). It's common chickweed (if I'm identifying it correctly), nothing too exciting since this is a (non-native) weed you can find in yards and gardens and basically everywhere, but still, it's a small something growing and blooming and bringing in the spring. And speaking of flowers, many of the paths I was walking today were flanked with huge swathes of trout lilies poking their mottled leaves up from the ground -- I'm very excited to see what the woods will look like when these flowers are all in bloom.

One last picture for today: I was entranced by this super weird fungus (I assume that's what it is) on this log. I have no idea what's going on here, but it looks almost as if the log were some sort of plaster or ceramic art creation that someone forgot to finish molding and painting. Very weird, but cool!

And once again, the woods are awesome (as expected). Just as I was leaving, an Osprey flew low over my head and across the lake. I would've tried to snap a picture, but unfortunately my in-flight bird photo skills are virtually non-existent -- that's a project for another time!

*Actually, as my mom reminded me recently (and she had photographic evidence to prove it), I did have a close encounter with a wild owl when I was very little -- we found a baby Great Horned Owl in our yard, injured, and a wildlife rehabilitation guy came to take it away. Since I have no actual memory of this event, however, I'm still counting the recent owl sightings as my first real (conscious? documented?) owl-encounter.


  1. Magnificent finds!

    I'm glad my crow-mobbing story helped to tip you off. Is it just me, or does that owl look (understandably) grumpy about being woken up and bothered in broad daylight? ;)

  2. Hehe, I can definitely see the grumpiness, and it was quite bright out -- I don't think I would be very happy about crow-harassment when I should be sleeping, either!

    (Should I call you "Sinclair" now, Megan? :P)

  3. What a spectacular photo. I've seen one of these beautiful owls in my yard once or twice but NEVER when I was close enough to get a photo (once I captured a blob on a tree top that I tell people is this owl but that doesn't really count!). Another time I was in Arizona and the hotel had this covered area at the entrance where one of these owls had a nest; I'd catch a glimpse and its hoots echoed in the structure but I never got a good look at it. Your descriptions are so vivid that I feel like I'm walking through those woods. Thanks! Christina Horvath

  4. Thanks so much, Christina! It really was a beautiful owl, and I feel super lucky to have seen it. I have to admit, though, I took about 50 blurry pictures before I got this one. :P That's why digital cameras are so useful! Thanks for reading!

  5. aaah hahaha I just came back here and saw that I was logged in under the lab account... that we use to sign undergrads up for studies... so embarrassing! Obviously I've been working from the home computer too much!