A Barred Owl In Wintry Rouge National Urban Park
When I suggested a walk in Rouge National Urban Park one day, I jokingly said that maybe we would see an owl. About an hour later, that prediction came true when I almost walked up to a beautiful Barred Owl sitting low in a small deciduous tree.
From our house, we have several options to choose from when it comes to walking trails. We headed to Bob Hunter Memorial Park, which is in the neighboring city of Markham. Little Rouge Creek flows through that large quadrant of Rouge National Urban Park, and I like nothing more than hiking beside flowing water.
Bob Hunter Memorial Park, which is part of Rouge National Urban Park, is named in honour of Robert Hunter, a Canadian environmentalist, a founding member of Greenpeace and the organization’s first president. Bob passed away in May, 2005, but his memory lives on around the world and here in this memorial park.
(Bob Hunter photo courtesy:BobHunter.org)
Right after alighting from our car, Bob spotted this Red-tailed Hawk perched adjacent to a large open field.
I think this Red-tailed Hawk is a resident of that area because we often see it when hiking the trails at Bob Hunter Memorial Park.
Bob and I watched as the Hawk flew to a northerly section of the conservation area before we set off in earnest hoping to make the walk more vigorous than usual.
There are a variety of trails throughout the Park as a whole, and the Bob Hunter Memorial Park is no exception. It was mid-December and little snow cover made for easy going.
Along Little Rouge Creek, the walking trail meanders through a Cedar Forest. Little was stirring the day we visited, and Bob and I soon feared that the Red-tailed Hawk might be our only sighting of the day.
I had moseyed on ahead of Bob who had been intrigued by some interesting seedpods on a withered plant. I was scanning the bushes and shrubs when I looked up and was astonished to see this Barred Owl perched a mere 30 feet from me.
After snapping a few photos, I turned around, walked back towards Bob, and tried to get his attention. Without speaking, I used hand signals to indicate that something special was just over my shoulder. When Bob raised his camera, I knew that he had got my message.
A few minutes later, the Barred Owl flew about 100 feet further along the hiking trail. Bob had kept track of it, so we walked in the same direction. It would have been easy to pass right by the Owl. Its camouflage was amazing.
Bob and I stayed on the path and observed the Barred Owl for quite awhile. The Owl was alert to any movements and noticed when a Dark-eyed Junco flew into a nearby thicket, but the Owl stayed put.
The Barred Owl was constantly scanning the forest floor, and every few minutes would cast a glance our way. The clicking of our shutter buttons was a surefire way of drawing the Owl’s attention.
Bob and I were so pleased to have found this Barred Owl all on our own and to have it all to ourselves. We had not seen this species for at least a couple of years. I was thinking that I had better listen to my intuition more often. Perhaps it could lead us to even more great sightings.