March 09, 2014

Looking Back: Owl Hunts I and II

Five weeks ago, on February 1st, I met my buddies (Mark, Ben, Brock, and Jer) in the now-familiar Whitby GO Station parking lot for our third annual Owl Hunt. It's just a name - we don't shoot owls of course, you'd have to be some kind of lunatic to do that. But since 2012, the five of us have been getting together in late January/early February for a little male bonding and owl hunting. Because who doesn't like owls?
Before I write my entry about the third one, I thought I'd do a little look back at the first two Owl Hunts.

Great Horned Owls
Owl Hunt '12 was a memorable one; I got to see my first ever owls in the wild(!) A mating pair of Great Horned Owls in Thickson Woods (right).

I'm told these two have been here for years, though I'm not sure how many. Evidently Great Horned's in the wild generally live a little over ten years, while the oldest known owl on record lived to 28 years old. However old they were, it was a good moment, seeing my first owls.

Awful photo of Short-eared Owl

From there we drove out to Amherst Island and the Owl Woods Conservation Area and saw: absolutely nothing. At dusk we gave up and started driving out of there -- that's when the place exploded. Snowy Owls seemed to be flying everywhere and at least one Short-eared Owl was seen(right). Who would have thought you'd see owls start to come out at night? Unfortunately, that also means it was so dark my camera couldn't really do much.

The following year, Owl Hunt '13, we decided not to drive so far, instead just hanging out around Whitby. The Great Horneds were at Thickson again, but this was also the year of the Barred Owl. We saw four in total and got some great looks at them.

Barred Owl #1Barred Owl #1
Barred Owl #1Barred Owl #1
Barred Owl #2Barred Owl #3
"How often, when snugly settled under the boughs of my temporary encampment...have I been saluted with the exulting bursts of this nightly disturber of the peace [the Barred Owl] -- Its 'whah, whah, whah, whah-a' is uttered loudly and in so strange and ludicrous a manner, that I should not be surprised were you to compare these sounds to the affected bursts of laughter which you may have heard from some of the fashionable members of your own species."
                                                                                                                              - John James Audubon

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