While I love whales and wildlife, I am not really a birder. It’s a little embarrassing how little I know about even the songbirds that come to our feeders, or about the birds I see while out whale watching. But I can still appreciate a beautiful bird, and this week, I had a very nice and rare opportunity to witness such an animal.
A Great Grey Owl has taken up residence in Newport NH, close to where I live. Reports on line indicate that it was first spotted on February 25, with continued sightings daily in the area starting on March 1. As with any wildlife, they are typically on the move and patterns are not always predictable. From day to day, and even within a day, locations and activities will vary.
Over the weekend, I saw on Facebook some photos of the owl landing on a woman’s head (she’s fine! no injuries). The location was near Newport’s small airport, just off Corbin Road. On Monday, on my way home from the weekend, I went by the airport, just in case. Good fortune! The owl was still there, judging by the small crowd of people and very long, specifically oriented, camera lenses. I parked, got out to see the bird with my own eyes. Not yet knowing just how rare and significant this event was, I still knew this was a special opportunity. So I went home to get my DSLR, returning a couple of hours later. The bird was in the same area but had moved across the small field. There were still about 25-30 people in attendance, wielding everything from tripods and long lenses (I have some serious lens envy now) to smaller point and shoot cameras, or just standing to observe.
As I said above, I’m not a birder. I’m not familiar with the general rules of conduct at scenes like this, but it was very easy to pick up on them. There was a wide band of space between the owl and the cameras, and people were generally being very quiet. I am grateful for the examples set while I was there, so that a newbie like me could easily follow along.
Of course, everyone wants to see some action. There have been numerous photos posted on line of the owl’s flying into the crowd and landing on cameras, tripods, and even a head (as noted above)! About 20 minutes after I arrived for my second visit, the owl again decided to interact with us. It swooped out of the small tree on which it was perched and came directly towards the crowd. It landed on a tripod about 5 feet away from me but stayed for just a second. The photo I got was at close to full zoom because in my inexperience, I wasn’t able to adjust quickly enough. It went back to a different spot in the trees, watching us all the while, turning its head for different sounds. It flew back down into the field again, landing on the ground where it sat and endured the new flurry of shutter clicking before flying into the trees, across the street, and out of sight. I feel very fortunate that over about 45 minutes, I was able to see the owl fly several times and get some close up shots. I do wish my photos were sharper, and I did crop some of them up for a better look at the bird. There are some fantastic photos online of this owl, and I offer up these shots as just another documentation of this visit. Please feel free to check out the other photos.
Not familiar with Great Grey Owls? Their typical range tends to be central/western Canada, Alaska, and the mountains of California. Check them out!