Monday, March 19, 2012

Superb Owl

It's taking me awhile to get through photos and write about my birding experiences, which have both been many recently. And while I'm not a football fan, I can certainly say that I enjoyed Super Bowl Sunday last month - though for me, Superb Owl Sunday is more correct.

On a tip from a local listserv, I had learned of a northern pygmy-owl not that far from my home, just up Provo Canyon at South Fork, through Vivian Park. I'd never been there before and was unfamiliar with the birding conditions it might present, but since our winter has been mild, I thought to give it a chance while much of the rest of the population was roosting indoors to watch the game. A lifer would be well worth any effort.

I found the parking area without difficulty, and immediately I loved the isolation of the habitat - nestled in the mountains but not mountainous itself, it was strikingly beautiful even on a barren winter day. I spent the better part of an hour hiking from the parking area further east along the road, checking the spots where the owl had been recently reported and looking for whatever other birds I might see. A Steller's jay gave me an earful for coming too close to his tree, and a flock of wild turkeys was less than impressed at my presence, but for the distance I went, I was owl-less.

Getting back to the parking lot, however, a pair of birders who had passed me driving (and stopped to ask if I'd found the owl) waved at me to hurry when I was a hundred yards away, and to my dismay, surprise, and delight, the owl was just west of the parking area - literally perhaps 15 yards west, if that. He was perched dutifully in a branch, unafraid of our presence because he was over the river and well aware that we could not approach any closer. For a full quarter of an hour or more I was able to observe him - the long tail, the clear patterns of his plumage, his piercing yellow eyes. I've had the privilege to see other wild owls before, but never so closely or so clearly.

A super day indeed, and a winning one.

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