By far the birds I was most excited to see at Sax-Zim Bog were the owls. Who doesn’t love owls??? However, by mid-day on Saturday I was beginning to feel a little pessimistic. The Friday evening search for Great Gray Owls at dusk had proved fruitless, and today our guide seemed to be doing his best to let us down gently. “Yeah, the Great Grays haven’t been nearly as reliable this year as they usually are. They’ve been a lot harder to find.” “There’s only been one hawk-owl reported in the bog all winter. We’ll look for one but it’s not too likely.” What if I went home at the end of the weekend without having seen a single nocturnal raptor? That would be so embarrassing.
Then this happened.
Do you see the owl? It’s there, I promise. When a couple of photographers told us what they’d found – in a tree right by the edge of the road, with orange flagging tape around its trunk, no less – we couldn’t believe it. (“You wouldn’t believe how long it took us to train that bird to sit in the tree with the flagging tape so we could find it,” quipped the guide.)
Yes, it’s a Boreal Owl! These awesome little denizens of the north country are about ten inches tall and usually spend the day well-concealed in the woods, but ours had ventured into the open. Our bus radioed the location to the other buses full of birders cruising the bog and soon the whole stretch of road was lined with owl paparazzi.
What’s good news for birders is unfortunately not good news for the bird. The fact that it was alert and out in the open in the middle of the day probably means that this bird was under stress and not finding enough food during its normal hunting times. This is often the case with the owl irruptions we birders love so much – last winter’s amazing influx of Snowy Owls in the U.S. was a sign that there wasn’t enough food for them in their regular range to the north.
Still, I cannot tell a lie, getting such a spectacular look at such an amazing and seldom-seen bird really made my day. And that was only the first owl of the weekend… to be continued!
Also, on an unrelated note: this marks my 500th post on Rebecca in the Woods. When I began blogging three years ago I was just doing it as a fun project for myself, because I enjoy taking pictures and writing. I had no idea where it would lead me – to becoming a published freelance writer, to doing a graduate project on social media and environmental education, and more. The community I’ve found online has genuinely enriched my life (I feel corny typing that, but it’s true), and I just want to say thank you to every single person who takes the time to read, like, comment, and share. You rock!