It may have been pitch dark and stupid early (3:30 am!) Saturday, as I set off to meet my Put an Owl on It team for Audubon’s Birdathon fundraiser, but I could hardly contain my excitement. All. Day. Long. Owling!!!
Eight of us braved the pre-sunrise to post-sundown adventure, including our team leaders, Joe Liebezeit, Portland Audubon Avian Conservation Program Manager, and Rhett Wilkins, avid birder, knowledgeable owler, and talented bird photographer.
We eagerly piled in vehicles and started off, first looking for the Barn Owl.
We searched for Northern Pygmy Owls next. We caught a glimpse of one in flight high in the canopy (success!), and heard others, but no photos this time. I recorded a clip of their “hollow toot” we heard here. I also gained a greater appreciation for my chance sighting of a Northern Pygmy Owl on day 1 of birding.
Next, we met up with accomplished nature photographer, birder, and owl-enthusiast, Scott Carpenter, who located a Great Horned Owl with two owlets for us. Success!
I took these owlet pictures on a return visit the following day.
It’s a funny thing, when you get home and look at your owlet pics to find a third (adult) owl hiding in the photo that you didn’t notice on site. Sneaky ninja owls!
Following great horned, we looked for Western Screech Owl. Yet, again, success! I have never seen a screech owl before, and I barely saw this well-camouflaged one, until Rhett pointed it out not 15 feet from us. Stunning.
We continued into the early evening to find Barred Owls. We found six rather cooperative owls, three adults and three owlets. Success!
We observed an owlet clumsily attempt flight, watched adults hunt, and snapped photos of poised individuals. We spent quality time watching these impressive, stately, and sometimes comical creatures until just after sunset (owlet video here).
And the fun wasn’t over yet. We still had one species left to find, the Northern Saw-whet Owl. Even after 12+ hours of birding, the team was committed and determined to accomplish this task. We placed ourselves at the viewing site and waited. Long after sunset and coyotes drunken yips and hollers, the full moon rose and we waited. Focused, quiet, and ready.
But, the Saw Whet Owl wasn’t ready for us, and by 9:30 pm, we reluctantly called it a night.
Even without the Saw-whet, witnessing 5 owl species, and seeing/hearing over 14 individuals in one day, is a major hooting success! Plus, I met some outstanding fellow birders and friends.
I am forever grateful to Audubon for this unique opportunity and to the folks I’ve met who share this passion. Hopefully, we’ve contributed in some way to the future success of our stealthy, magnificent, feathered friends and helped spread the word about Audubon’s good work. If you feel the twinkle of inspiration, make a difference here. Thank you!
More pictures from the trip here!
Tweets and chirps,