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I can't believe it - I FINALLY saw an owl!!!

Posted Sunday 11th May 2008 at 17:02 by Terry O'Nolley
Updated Sunday 11th May 2008 at 19:50 by Terry O'Nolley
I've been trying to tick an owl (any owl - I didn't care if it was a Snowy Owl or a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl) since I began birding way, way, [b]way[/b] back in 2005.

I was beginning to think that maybe owls didn't exist. That everyone in the world except me was in on some sort of cosmic-scale private joke. Maybe the "WHOOO WHOOO WHO COOOKS FOR YOOOUUAAaaaahhh" I heard in the woods from time to time was being generated by a snickering trickster in a deer stand with an MP3 player.
[url=][i]click here for Barred Owl "song"[/i][/url]

But then today..... today the world changed for me.

I was exploring a new birding site - Hugg-Thomas Wildlife Management Area. A nice tract of land in NW Howard county, Maryland (about 27 miles from where I live). It is managed for hunting and has a great mixture of habitats. Everything from open fields to rivers to hills.

I spent about 30 minutes skirting a large open area but not much was happening (I arrived there at 7:00 AM) so I headed into the woods and began following the trail.

It was a fantastic day for Wood Thrushes! You could hear them everywhere. The sounds of multiple Wood Thrushes singing has to be one of nature's most sublime of symphonies. And they were quite bold - they gave me showings that I normally associate with American Robins. They saw me, they ignored me. It was a really special feeling watching a Wood Thrush sing on an exposed branch right over the trail less than 20 yards away.
[url=][i]click here for Wood Thrush song[/i][/url]

Following the trail further led me down alongside a tributary of the Patuxent River. I kept hearing this unfamiliar birdsong. It was very clear and sounded a bit strident. I thought I was listening to an Empidonax flycatcher of unknown species (which for me is anything other than an Acadian). The call had that sort of explosive quality to it. I kept looking and finally the singer made himself visible. Turns out it was a Hooded Warbler! A great find and it really made my day (up to that point).
[url=][i]click for Hooded Warbler song[/i][/url]

Eastern Wood Peewees were singing everywhere and after about 90 minutes of walking I was finally able to see one. Nice - that's 2 year ticks so far today. For an overcast day this was going very well.
[url=][i]click for Eastern Wood Peewee song[/i][/url]

And then [b]it[/b] happened.

I saw a large bird through 100 feet of trees rise up from the ground and perch near the top of a tall tree. I could sort of see him from where I was and I brought my bins up and expected to be trying to figure out if it was a Red-shouldered Hawk or a Red-tailed Hawk. Imagine my surprise and joy when I found myself staring eye to eye with a Barred Owl (first photo shows the view of the owl when I first found it in my bins after landing in the tree - I use a 300mm lens so I couldn't tell what it was without glass). It was such an eerie feeling! The eyes were so large and so dark and were so obviously staring right at me. With a hawk, they look at you sideways. Remember - this was my first owl and the momentary shock of realizing what I was looking at was almost electric.

I moved around the tree I was standing behind to get a better view and he flew to a nearby tree. I walked a little further down the trail and was able to get closer and get some better shots.

What a day! 2 year ticks plus a lifer. Life is good......

Oh, take a look at the last picture....
That is the sign guarding the entrance to the place. Since when do trespassers need trespassing permits? And where would one go to obtain a trespassing permit???

Links for this birding site:[list][*][url=,-76.973069&spn=0.01236,0.027037&t=h&z=16][i]Google map view (map centered on parking area)[/i][/url][*][url=][i]Hugg-Thomas WMA website (with trail maps)[/i][/url][/list]
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Posted in Field Notes
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Total Comments 3


dantheman's Avatar
Excellent one!
Funnily enough I saw my first Barred Owl a few weeks ago when I was over in Cape May area on holiday, but this was flight views from the car. Would've been much nicer to see one close up and as well as you did!

Like the sign too . . We found a few odd signs as well, I'm sure there's a thread somewhere here on BF about crazy signs. . . if not you should start one . .

Good birding, dan
Posted Monday 12th May 2008 at 19:16 by dantheman dantheman is online now
dacol's Avatar
Hi Terry,

Congratulations on the Barred Owl!

Posted Tuesday 13th May 2008 at 17:14 by dacol dacol is offline
Dale Forbes's Avatar
Congrats Terry!
I still have not seen an owl in Austria. I think they are a myth here. A consequence of too much schnapps and Stroh Rum.

Posted Wednesday 14th May 2008 at 11:40 by Dale Forbes Dale Forbes is offline
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