Barred Owl Encounter – This Time My Choice

If you follow this blog then you know early in the week I post about my weekend experiences and later on about my travels or something that has caught my eye. But a Barred Owl encounter yesterday was so special I decided to make a separate post.

And the timing was eerily coincidental since I had recently reread a post on the ABA blog about ethics.

As I posted last week a foggy encounter with a Northern Harrier was all too brief. Like many birding experiences the harrier was there one moment and gone the next. Not much I could do about it. That’s the way it works out.

But it was my choice yesterday to limit the time with the Barred Owl .

I had stopped to check for waterfowl on one of Atterbury FWA’s small lakes. Saturday’s plan was to spend several hours walking Johnson County Park. So I wasn’t going to stop unless I immediately saw something. No waterfowl. But a bird was warbling in the trees. Not a House Finch. Purple Finch?

Once deciding to stop I have a self-imposed rule stating I have to bird the area.

No 3 minute eBird stops.

Parking the car I hear the warble one last time. But now I’m committed to bird the area.

First a Swamp Sparrow pops up for a few photos.

Swamp Sparrow is across the grass chipping away.

Note: The caption in the next photo is important.

I zoom in on the Swamp Sparrow for a better photo.

Note, I have zoomed the camera in and left it there.

I decided to bushwhack to the lakes’ other side where the waterfowl usually congregates.

I haven’t bushwhacked far when for whatever reason I notice a Barred Owl behind and to the left, hidden in the scrubby brush.

Maybe 10 feet away.

In all my years of birding I have never been this close to an owl. At least not an awake one. And that one was 20 feet up in a tree.

Thinking the Barred Owl is going to fly I slowly raise the camera and take a photo.

Barred Owl Encounter
The camera is still set to ZOOM from taking the Swamp Sparrow photo! Not wanting to miss the chance I take the close-up.

The owl doesn’t move and backing out the zoom I take a few more photos.

Walking carefully as not to disturb it, I slowly move to an open spot for another photo.
Maybe because I’m walking slowly the owl doesn’t seem to mind my presence, even turning its head.

Checking the photo’s time stamps the Barred Owl encounter lasted less than 1 minute.

But unlike last week’s Northern Harrier encounter this time it was my choice to come and go quickly.

I never looked back and went about bushwhacking to the other side of the lake.

Even though it lasted less than a minute I can guarantee this will be one of those moments I will recall years from now.

An Owl to Help the Waiting

It seems it has been at least a month that I have been WAITING for the seasons to change the scenery from late summer birds to early winter birds.  And with the weather in the 70 degree range this past week, I don’t think it is going to happen quite yet.

So Mike and I headed out last Saturday morning to check a few spots before the rain hit. After the rain last week we were hoping that the local shorebird spot might be have some birds.  As my last post showed not only was it dried up, but plowed under. So we headed to the local ponds hoping some waterfowl had moved in. No waterfowl exept for a large number of Canada Geese. And the wind had now moved to the east at 15mph and a light rain was starting to fall. Enough of that. We discussed plans for the next few weekends, weather cooperating, and I headed home early.

The weather had improved by mid-afternoon and I had cabin fever, so I headed to the local park.  Really not expecting anything different while we WAIT for the seasons to change. But a good walk in fall weather is always good.

Franklin TP Sign
The intro sign to my local park. I really hadn’t paid much attention to it before. I’ll have to check the webpage listed at the bottom of the sign.
The bird of the day, in terms of numbers, was easily the American Robin. They were everywhere giving the false hope they might be something else. Franklin TCP 10/31/15

And as expected there really wasn’t much happening outside the local species and large numbers of American Robins, Northern Flickers, and Yellow-rumped Warblers. And I saw a Lincoln’s Sparrow that had more markings on the breast than I have seen before.  So that was fun trying to figure out.  Not even one raptor flying.

A Carolina Wren getting close to scold me for pishing for sparrows. Franklin TCP 10/31/15
Two White-throated Sparrows discussing if they should drop down in the brush. And of course they did. Franklin TCP 10/31/15

But while walking through the park’s small forested area I saw a raptor fly from high up in one tree down and then back up to sit on a high branch.  First thought since it was daytime was a hawk but something told me it was an owl.  And sure enough it was a totally unexpected Barred Owl.

It’s amazing to me how well Barred Owls blend into their landscape. If I hadn’t watch it land I would have never picked up it’s location. Franklin TCP 10/31/15

Having seen them in daylight off and on over the years in Illinois I knew that I had to follow it to exactly were it landed.  Or it would blend in so well I would never find it in the trees.  And I couldn’t move. Loosing the angle of sight and the same thing would happen.

So I stood in the same spot and watched the owl watching me.

I never could get a line of sight on the owl through the underbrush. Don’t you wonder how many owls go unnoticed? Franklin TCP 10/31/15

Of course the line of sight did not give me a clear photo line. And past experience told me that it would flush if I tried to move towards it.  So I moved 2 feet left, no better view. Then 2 feet right.  Still no good. And the path was too narrow to go much further left or right.

BAOW 122909
Since I didn’t get a good photo Saturday I’ll add this obliging Barred Owl sitting in the sun at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois. It hung around for a few weeks at this spot. 12/29/09

So I gazed at the owl for many minutes and then decided to try to get a better line of sight by moving forward. And as expected after about 3 steps it flushed, not to be seen again.

But anytime I see an owl in the daytime it’s a treat.