The date was in mid-November, Bob’s birthday actually, and to mark the occasion, we decided to get out in the field for some birding. Little did we know that a diminutive Northern Saw-whet Owl would make our day!
Bob and I always keep an eye out for owls when walking forest trails. This is no easy task as there are endless possible perches and trees to hide within. As we scan our surroundings, our heads resemble those of a bobblehead doll. All species of owls are so well camouflaged that it is nearly impossible to detect them.
The day started out very cold but sunshine promised to help keep us warm. Alas, the wind got up with brutal gusts chilling us despite our layers of clothing. Sunshine gave way to a heavy snow shower that limited visibility.
Bob and I were not deterred even though there seemed to be little bird activity. Everything was hunkered down trying to keep warm.
As we walked one stretch of a trail with Bob in the lead, he passed a small stand of rather young pine trees. As always, two sets of eyes are better than one, and as I brought up the rear, I glanced to my right and was startled to see this Northern Saw-whet Owl staring at me.
I believe the Saw-whet Owl was equally as surprised judging by its wide-eyed appearance.
I hastened to get closer to Bob to alert him to the presence of the Northern Saw-whet Owl, and we returned quietly to the vicinity of the owl’s perch making every attempt to keep our distance and prevent distressing the owl.
Our movements were carried out slowly and quietly while the Northern Saw-whet Owl scrutinized our actions. Bob and I were so thankful that the little owl had chosen a perch where no twigs obscured our view.
Northern Saw-whet Owls must conserve their energy throughout the daylight hours in order to keep warm, avoid detection by predators, and to be ready for hunting once dusk falls.
After a few short minutes of photographing the Northern Saw-whet Owl, Bob and I retreated back along the trail and continued hiking for another hour or so.
A quick check back before heading home revealed an empty branch where the Owl had been. A search of the area seemed futile until I noticed a wee face peeking out from behind a narrow tree trunk. It appeared that the Northern Saw-whet Owl had gone in search of a warmer perch because where it now sat, rays of late-afternoon sunshine filtered through the tangle of branches. We left the Northern Saw-whet Owl huddled contentedly out of the wind as it waited for the sun to set.
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