Over the past two days I have been privileged to bird with Paul Bannick, who amongst other items is a senior staff member for Conservation Northwest. Knowing that he and Sparky Stensaas were good friends, after yesterday’s birding excursion Molly and I hosted everyone for dinner. (Sparky is the executive director of Friends of Sax-Zim Bog)
While we were having a glass of wine, Sparky was glancing at Paul’s new book, A Year in the Lives of North American Owls. Wow! and I repeat Wow! Sparky immediately recognized the location of a particular photograph based upon some willows in the background of an image. This started an interesting test which truly amazed me. Paul would open the book to a given page, and then test Sparky’s knowledge. Could the location of the photograph be determined based upon the various plant life in the photograph, or the minor plumage variations of a given owl. I was dumbfounded how easily these two individuals could recognize the location of a given bird based upon plant life, etc.
Obviously the past two days were a treat for me. While I provided some local habitat knowledge, Paul was extremely generous is helping further my education about birds, and often specifically owls. Here are some of images I took over the past two days.
Day 1 was ugly, and not a good day for owling. The wind was screaming out of the Northwest in excess of 20 mph, and the snow came down almost non-stop. Somehow we found four owls. At one point we even stood in the middle of a pasture braving the -30F chill factors to photograph a Northern Hawk Owl.
Boreal Owl in the Duluth area
Northern Hawk Owl at -30F Windchill (Oh man it was cold while photographing this bird. Paul got a minor case of frostbite)
Great Gray Hiding from the Wind & Snow (We went back four hours later; the owl had not moved one inch. This spot captured what little solar warmth was available, and was out of the wind. The final image was taken during the second visit … sleepy owl)
Day 2 was fantastic … calm winds and +4F temperatures
Pileated Woodpecker … expressing its opinion about all these owl photographs
Northern Hawk Owl on the Hunt
Great Gray Owl on the Hunt
And a Talon Shot