This week’s photo, taken November 10, 2012 at the end of Eide Road in Stanwood, WA, features a SHORT-EARED OWL winging its way past the viewing area.
Hoping for a better look at the Northern Shrike than last week, I return to the Montlake Fill Saturday morning. As I’m getting out of my car, I meet two bird-watchers who also want to see the shrike, so off we go in search of a bird that’s been here at least 3 weeks. After some effort, we come up empty. I guess you could say that we shrike out.
Later that day, Laura and I drive 50 miles north of Seattle to Stanwood, where we hope to spot a Short-eared Owl, an owl that can be active during daylight hours, and especially at dusk. As we pull into the parking area at the end of Eide Road, no owls are visible, but a NORTHERN SHRIKE is perched on a nearby pole. We recall one of bird-watching’s greatest commandments: “You are more likely to find a shrike, when you are not looking for a shrike.”
Shortly before sunset, about 200 yards from us, a SHORT-EARED OWL (life bird) is cruising back and forth and low over the fields. Then the birding gets even better. At one point, we are able to observe, through our binoculars, 3 owls flying at the same time. Even from a great distance, Short-eared Owls are fun to watch. They behave like aerial gymnasts as they tilt, bank, hover, climb and glide through the air. When they discover a mouse or a vole, they seem to dive toward their prey with reckless abandon.
I’m mesmerized by the owls; therefore, several minutes pass before I realize that the large hawk perched in a leafless tree to our right is another life bird for us, a ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK. When I aim my camera at the hawk, out of the corner of my eye I notice a Short-eared Owl flying by. Because it’s much closer than the owls we had been watching, I get so excited that my brain shuts down momentarily, and I blank on the bird’s name. Instead of yelling “Owl!”, I yell “Hawk!” Nevertheless, Laura looks up, sees the owl and figures out what I was trying to say.