Sunday, January 1, 2012

Great Gray Owl

For my final day of birding in 2011, I went to Kingsville in southern Ontario to see this astonishing bird that has been present for about a week.  I read the daily reports and wondered if the bird would still be present on Saturday when I would be free to make the trip over. It was. Following an early morning appointment in Ann Arbor, I drove across the Ambassador bridge and arrived shortly after 10:00 am.

The photos speak for themselves - a completely enchanting bird.

Bird on a wire.

One that is in such an unlikely location, however, that it seems almost certain to be in trouble.

On Thursday and Friday a kerfluffle broke out on the listserve I read about photographer behavior as they angle for better and better photos of the Great Gray.  Of course, I knew I wanted to photograph the bird too.  Of all the people (and cars) present on Saturday - the above photo shows a mere fraction of us - all but just a few had cameras.  The owl is not visible in this photo but was on a utility wire (top two photos) above and in front of the man with the black jacket in the foreground center. It seemed to be trying to hunt in the long grasses at the base of the roadside hill where the observers are lined up in the middle of the photo.  At one point it left the wire and dropped to the ground into the grass.  It flew up from the grasses without evidence of prey in its talons and flew across the field to land in the safer perch of a tree.  It seemed clear that so many observers would interfere with its hunting.

Cars lined both sides of the narrow-shouldered road.  At one point a local driver in a white pick-up truck angrily laid on the horn as he tried to make his way past the crowd.

The video above is 5:05 minutes in length because I was hoping to get the owl leaving its perch.  I took this one long video and a few shorter videos but it never did budge.  While taking this video I was approximately 100 feet across the field and standing on a hill so I was essentially level with the bird.  The audio picks up the sounds of the large crowd and there is some interesting commentary.  To view full screen click on the title Great Gray Owl.

Such a beautiful bird and the mild temperatures of the morning tempted me to linger, but I was satisfied with the photos and video I had and I knew that one less person and car could not be a bad thing.  The only thing missing were the street vendors selling hotdogs, popcorn, cotton candy and soda.  I wish I could imagine a good outcome for this spectacular bird.  

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