I was up early Monday morning to an amazing sunrise and a somewhat clear sky. We have seen so little of the winter sun, it was refreshing and welcoming at the same time. It was disappointing to know however, that I was tied to the house for the day because I was preparing to have a medical procedure that afternoon.
As I went about my daily routine the phone rang. The physicians office was notifying me the appointment needed to be changed. We mutually agreed on the new date and so my new day began.
Since I was no longer committed to home confinement the mood quickly changed. I came to the realization it would be a good day to get out and do some birding and photographing. The opportunity I was waiting for had presented itself.
Over the past few days I had been following posts as many have on Algoma District Birding – a local to the Algoma district, site for bird enthusiasts of all levels, to share and learn about bird sightings, with the focus of spreading rare bird alerts. In a year that has shown many signs of owl eruptions a couple of different individuals had been reported east of Sault Ste. Marie within the previous two day period. This would be the direction I would travel.
When I leave home for the day I prepare my gear for pretty much any genre of shooting. I don’t limit myself to photographing one thing and most definitely try to follow my own path. That ensures I am able to stop and photograph when I come across a scene that catches my eye, and, I don’t come home empty handed.
Within a short hour I had pulled out and packed my gear, ate breakfast, donned my outdoor clothes, kissed Pat goodbye and away I went.
I traveled along Hwy 17B East observing the trees and surroundings for signs of birds, and just enjoying the ride, the sun and blue sky. I proceeded slower than normal through Tarbutt and Tarbutt Additional in order to try to spot the resident male Snowy Owl, but he was nowhere to be seen.
The next stop through was Desbarats where I had hoped to visit one more time with the Northern Hawk Owl who had taken up territory there this winter. After traversing the areas in which he had been spotted and I had photographed him previously, I came up empty handed again.
On I went directly into Thessalon and made my way to the area in which a Northern Saw Whet Owl had been found a day or two previously. I took the time to discover areas I had not been in or seen before which is always refreshing.
While there I stopped to photograph in a few locations and talk to other birders. There were some from as far away as Indiana. In conversation I learned that they too had been following the many rare bird alerts in the area and decided to come and stay in the area to bird. I was able to answer some of their questions which felt good to be helpful. You’ll find that most birders you come across out in the field are pretty friendly. I have made many acquaintances while out birding and sometimes that equates to contacts and leads.
After scouring the treeline and area I had resolved the tiniest of owls had moved on and so did I taking in more sights while discovering new areas for me. My last location would be to a new location in the area where a Great Gray Owl had popped up days previous. This was an area I had to research a bit beforehand since I really didn’t even know it existed prior. The use of a GPS is always recommended in these cases.
There were lots of great scenes to capture as I made my way. I was lucky in that the roadway was quiet. There just happened to be no other birders in the area when I noticed an out of place lump in a tree way off in a field. After pulling over safely I was able to view by field glasses and confirm that it was indeed an owl. It was so far in that even when I put the camera up to my eye I couldn’t conclusively determine the species. This was the one time when the sun was a hindrance.
I continued to watch and photograph it for about 20 minutes. At one point it flew off on a hunt and I lost sight of it. After waiting it out for a few minutes it returned to the same area perching in the next tree.
There is a good point to be made for not taking your eyes off an owl once you have located it. They are such silent flyers it’s very difficult to re-find them. When I initially got out of my car to photograph I was not wearing my jacket. Even though it was relatively mild, after watching for long enough I decided I should put that jacket on. That owl left the minute I turned. I was glad I had photographed first – a lesson I learned and use always.
All was not lost – he returned after a brief hunt and I was able to observe the flight in. After photographing a while longer I thanked him for the opportunity said my goodbye and wished him well. Such an awesome experience.
The ride home was broken up by a few stops. The first of which was to The Kensington Conservancy to seek out the expert advice of Carter Dorscht. Right from first glance of my photos from the day, the consensus was “Great Grey Owl”. He congratulated me on my find, we exchanged the important information and I made my way home. I was lucky enough to find the company of the Northern Hawk Owl on a wire by the side of the road, which made it a two owl kind of day for me.
So why do I say a slow day of birding is better than one at home? I look at the lessons and gifts of the day.
A situation arose where I needed to make a change of plans so I ran with it. Actually I was quite happy to do so if you must really know.
I’ve given credit for my finds where it is due there is nothing worse than going out to photograph something that has been photographed many times over, using that info gained from others to go out and shoot the same thing and calling it your own. There have been many friends and other colleagues who have opened many doors for me in particular by sharing information on areas I had never been to and even getting together to shoot. Those are treasured moments and true friendships.
I practice citizen science. My findings are reported and recorded through e-Bird a program run out of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Useful information used to help redraw range maps for species among other uses. It’s also serves as a great tool for other birders interested in seeking out those sightings. There are many that use it religiously as such.
I follow my own path which leads me to broader creativity and my own point of view. It’s not fun to be a parrot.
Never take your eyes off an owl once you find it to photograph until you are done photographing. It’s feather and wing structure allow it to slip away silently undetected and you will be left in search mode once again. That being said it is part of the adventure.
In terms of gifts one can appreciate the fresh air, sunshine, blue sky,the outing, the interaction with like minded people in addition to the residents, the new contacts and friendships and of course who could forget, the beautiful subjects. All these things contribute to a better frame of mind and a quick pick me up at a time when light and sunshine are at a low. I consider them very therapeutic and inspiring.
Get out to see and enjoy every moment you are able. Appreciate and protect the gifts given to you.
Work on the website continues. Other new ventures have kept me busy this week so it’s moving a little slower at this time. And I’m extremely glad that through my writing I have inspired at least one person to begin a blog. Enjoy.