So far in 2009 almost all of my birding has been confined to weekends, and most of it has been in local parks that I can access easily. Of course, I have taken some trips that took me out of the the city, and, while going through the pictures I’ve taken on those trips I realized that I had neglected to blog about two species of owl that I’ve seen and photographed. This, for a bird blogger, is nearly a capital offense! Everyone likes owls, and though I have blogged about the Northern Hawk Owl up in New Hampshire it is really inexcusable that I have skipped blogging about another owl we saw on the Superbowl of Birding weekend, to say nothing of another owl much closer to home.
The Superbowl of Birding was weird in terms of our owl encounters. While the hawk owl was nice the day before the competition, we couldn’t count it for our team total. Owling before dawnn competition day gave us the opportunity to hear Eastern Screech Owls and a Great Horned Owl, but we never managed to track down a Barred Owl, an owl I am used to finding relatively easily from my time living in upstate New York. We never found Long-eared, Short-eared, or Snowy Owls on the day of the competition either, though we managed to find a Snowy Owl the next day that was far to distant to photograph, even with my digiscoping rig. We were lucky enough, however, to find a Long-eared Owl that was much closer when we stopped to photograph the White-winged Crossbills that we hadn’t had time to linger over during the superbowl. Well, in all honesty, we didn’t really find the Long-eared Owl so much as we saw some photographers who had found the owl and glommed onto their bird as soon as we realized that they had something good.
Note the twig across the owl’s face, a serious detriment to a good picture. The twig is there because I did not want to jockey for position in the one small spot where there was an unobscured view of the owl. Fortunately, other members of the Bloggerhead Kingbirds had no problems throwing elbows and clearing out other photographers, and got much better shots (here and here). I kind of wish that I had put my elbows to better use and done the same…
Despite my lack of the killer photographer instinct I still enjoyed the looks I got of the owl, the best I’ve had of that species. And, speaking of better looks, on my birthday I went out to Jones Beach with Danny Melore, my occasional Queens-based birding buddy, and we finally managed to track down the Snowy Owl that has been seen regularly behind the nature center there. The light was horrendous and the owl, while closer than the one in Massachusetts, was still not within wonderful picture range. Nonetheless, a picture of an owl is a picture of an owl, so here it is.
Moving forward, I promise that I will promptly blog about all owl sightings, particularly ones that lead to pictures. Good luck finding your own owls to enjoy!