Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pictures and Words - Unrelated

The pictures below are all waterfowl from my visit to Erie Reservoir yesterday. They are Common Goldeneyes and Red-breasted and Common Mergansers.

Last night I had what I believe is one of the most sublime encounters one can have in the world of birding. As I left my photography class at around 9:30 last night I heard an unmistakable sound carrying through the crisp night air. "Who-Who-Whoo". It was so clear and so close that I thought for a second it must be an artificial reproduction. I fished out my iPod and played my Great Horned Owl hoots a few times. Then to my amazement another voice answered the first! I immediately stopped the playback, and stood listening to their duet. It was amazing, I stood listening as students walked by alone or in groups, headed for their cars.

I was surprised that a pair would chose such a well lit and highly traveled area for their courtship. I found the far owl quickly, it was on a horizontal branch of a tree, shaded from the parking lot lights by the trunk. Fortunately for me, the dark owl shape stood out against a lighter background in the distance.

The second owl was much closer to me, but other than making a roundabout circle of the area to get a general fix on the source of the hoots I wasn't able to pin it down. Sadly, I didn't have any of the necessary gear to shoot at night, and I had pulled my bins from my case that morning to make room for the additional stuff I take to class.

After a long period of hooting to one another the owls grew quiet, and not wanting to drive them away or interrupt their courting I pulled back to my car. While I was there a woman came up and asked if I was watching the birds. I let her know that I had been and that the two Great Horned Owls were hooting to one another in a preparation for mating season. She said that she had heard them sometime last week and was excited to share them with a friend who had done some wildlife photography in the past.
I hope they hang around as well. I will be listening for them after my next class, and may try to get by some early morning to see if I can relocate them for a few pictures. These owls seem very conditioned to human presence as they see hundreds of people walking by them daily.

1 comment:

  1. What a cool encounter that was! Sometimes on summer evenings I hear their calls from across the river and always pause and spend much time listening.