After dipping on last year's OFO Haldimand-Norfolk outing due to spinning out on an icy highway 403 with Master John, I was determined to go this year. Miraculously, the weather cooperated, but would the birds???
They did. Especially Short-eared Owls that I've felt short-changed by, having only ever seen them four times in my life. My first and probably most dramatic encounter was over four years ago at Boundary Bay, British Columbia, when I was dazzled by a Short-eared Owl and a Northern Harrier chasing each other back and forth right in front of me, with Bald Eagles looking on from the sidelines perched on hydro poles, can you imagine?
Distant views of a Short-eared Owl hunting at dusk in Whitby a month later was a new addition to my Ontario List but mediocre by comparison to my first encounter in British Columbia. Two more distant views in Fisherville and on Amherst Island last year at dusk didn't cut it. So yes, I had every right to feel short-changed by Short-ears.
Our trip leader Dave Milsom easily found six Short-eared Owls together at our very first stop in the area they were known to frequent. There were fourteen vehicles in total on this popular outing, and wisely positioning myself behind the lead car, I was immediately gasping with excitement at the sight of these beauties right next to us.
What happened next was magical, that's all I can say, as forty-three birders watched and listened in awe of these gorgeous owls take to the air, erratically flying up and down and back and forth in the field in front of us. A few of the owls were perched in a distant tree, how easily can anyone locate them in this mega-cropped pic??
On the wing, gorgeous!
Landing on trees:
Roosting in evergreens:
Never before had I such a good opportunity to study the dramatic black wrist markings on the underwings as they swooped in and over our heads:
And then back to a preferred perch, its short ear tufts are barely visible:
Some us were hearing dogs barking in the distance, somewhat muted, when we realized in fact it was the owls barking! Sibley refers to their calls as "nasal or wheezy barks", Peterson refers to "an emphatic sneezy bark", it was pure magic!
More views of them soaring overhead, with dark streaks on the breast:
A view of the mottled pattern on the back, and its buffy wing patches:
This is yet another one of my most memorable encounters and by far the best with Short-eared Owls, so no longer do I consider myself short-changed!