Even though I've seen owls in the woods a dozen times or more by now (since I was watching that Great Horned Owl nest), I don't think I'll ever get used to the shock when I stumble across one. They're just so awesome. This owl was watching me from a tree near the path this morning, and I had a hard time containing my excitement when I looked up and saw it there:
It's a Barred Owl, maybe even the same individual that I saw in March in this same area. Do you love the pattern of stripes on its breast and belly? And the wide rings around its face, with one side arching slightly higher than the other, like a raised eyebrow? I do. This bird seemed so calm, so big and peaceful, and I felt lucky to be in its presence. What a truly magnificent creature.
And there were more cool birds at the woods today as well. This Northern Parula (a migrating warbler that nests in eastern North America) was flitting around and singing in a rose bush right next to the entrance to the woods. He flashed his bright yellow throat with his pretty orange/gray collar right at me for a photo -- how nice of him. :)
A pair of Common Mergansers flew down and landed in the lake in front of me. I've posted about these birds before, but I couldn't resist taking more pictures with these two so close. Here's the male:
And here's the female (yep, she's definitely the prettier one):
I found new flowers in the woods, too -- everything's growing by leaps and bounds out there!
Yes, it's another violet (I said there are a lot of different violet species around here, didn't I?). This one's a Dog Violet (Viola conspersa), and I feel pretty confident about my identification since this plant has all the right characteristics for the species: leaves on the flower stem, hairs on the petals, and a long spur on the back of the flower, which you can see in this next picture:
The pretty flower in this next picture is Sessileleaf Bellwort (also called Sessile Bellwort, or Wild Oats, Uvularia sessilifolia):
I love how these delicate lily-like flowers look, all bowed down, and blending so well with the ferns unfurling in the background of this picture. This is yet another cool thing that I never knew existed until now. Hooray for the woods and hooray for spring!