It has been no secret to those that know me well that the Great Gray Owl has been my nemesis bird since beginning my birding adventures the year after the last major irruption of them in Durham Region when these magnificent beauties were apparently trash birds in south Whitby. Constantly reminded of this on numerous occasions by my so-called birding buddies (thanks, guys, love you too!), I secretly wept each winter as they continued to elude me. Double-digit "dip trips" were made to Algonquin during the fall and winter of last year when they were frequently seen by everyone else except me, so I eventually stopped trying.
Until last March when one was quietly reported offline in eastern Ontario, so off I went with Master John on a Sunday afternoon with absolutely no expectations (yeah, right), for finally a brief and distant glimpse of this Lifer bird for me:
It seemed like perhaps my GGOW drought had ended, but alas no, as I returned to this remote location a few more times throughout the following week, with the hopes of another sighting to further study this species, all to no avail. But at least I finally had a wonderful memory of this Life, formerly Nemesis Bird for me.
Until a few weeks ago when another Great Gray Owl was reported, but this time a mere ten minutes from home. I arrived at dusk with no expectations, and was greeted with this dramatic view without even leaving the car, gorgeous!
I was in total awe of this beauty, shaking like a leaf as I crawled to the back seat of my car for a better glimpse, only to look back up at its perch to see it had flown away! So imagine my surprise when I realized it had in fact flown in closer, landing on a fence post almost next to my car:
As it grew darker and darker, the Great Gray eventually took an amazingly silent flight to a tree further back in the field. Here's an eerie, almost ghostly view of it as it flew by my car window, admittedly not a great shot but it somehow still resonates with me:
By now I somehow found myself alone with this beautiful Great Gray as the few other birders there, including Master John, had departed in the darkness. Perched in its distant tree, the Great Gray was now magically silhouetted against a rising, almost-full moon, a precious memory that will endure forever in my mind.
A week later, a hasty decision on my part was made to return for a Golden Hour glimpse, again with no expectations, but its ridiculously close proximity and golden lighting made for spectacular views:
Its feathers being caressed by the frigid arctic breeze:
...an occasional doze in the brutal arctic temperatures:
Five minutes in total were shared with this Great Gray Owl, before leaving it in peace as the day came to an end.
I continue to be humbled by its magnificence.