Anne Elliott

Anne Elliott

Posted on 08/31/2016

Photo taken on June  8, 2016

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Strix nebulosa
Great Grey Owl
SW of Calgary
Great Gray Owl
Anne Elliott
back/side view
© All Rights Reserved
© Anne Elliott 2016
8 June 2016
bird of prey
fence post
rodent in beak

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Predator with prey

Predator with prey
A short while after taking photos of this owl on 8 June 2016, I learned that a dead Great Gray Owl had been found in this general area. I really hope it was not the magnificent bird in this photo or the other Great Gray Owl I saw and photographed not too far away. I don't know if the owl had been hit by a car, or not. Always sad to hear this kind of news.

Had to smile while I was uploading this photo, thinking of what happened while I was taking photos of a Snipe on this day. Occasionally, when I'm along one of the roads SW of the city, friend Pam also happens to come along. So, on 8 June 2016, I had pulled over to take a few photos of a beautiful Wilson's Snipe that was perched on a fence post, when I was suddenly aware of a car pulling up alongside of me - and Pam was who I thought of straight away. However, when I turned to look, I found myself looking into the face of a Police Officer sitting in his Police car!!! Almost always, when I pull over, I turn on my hazard blinkers, or at the very least, the indicator. Didn't that time, so I was feeling very guilty. However, the Police Officer hadn't stopped for that reason. He just wanted to check that I was just taking photos and, I guess, that all was OK. He asked what I was photographing and I pointed out the bird. He said he had wondered if maybe I had seen a bear on the distant hillside (I wish!). Then he apologized for making the bird fly just before he drove off, with a friendly "Take Care" : ) I almost decided to leave for home, but then changed my mind and went in search of (hopefully) an owl. Not a good feeling, though, each time I pulled over, lol!

The feel of goose bumps and half-numbed skin was the most wonderful feeling that day, when I couldn't bear being inside my place one more day. It feels like an oven each summer, but this year, with the crazy weather we have been having, the heat has already been too much. I had already stayed home for three days in a row, as the two day trips at the weekend had totally knocked me out. This day, though, I couldn't take the indoor heat any longer, and so I took a drive SW of the city. By the time I got back home, I felt cold, which was so good. Travelled all my usual roads and back roads, seeing all the usual things, including Wilson's Snipe, Red-winged Blackbirds and Mountain Bluebirds.

When I felt it was time to start on my homeward journey, I reckoned I might as well check one more time for a Great Gray Owl. I almost drove past the one in this photo, as it was on the far side of the road when I first spotted it and, from a distance, just blended in with the light and shadows of the forest. I took a few quick shots, then drove down the road and turned around, hoping that the owl would still be in the same place, which thankfully it was. It eventually flew across the road and landed in a tree or two and then made its way to an open area where it continued to hunt. After a few minutes, it dove into the grass and completely disappeared from sight. I thought I must have missed seeing it fly away, but it eventually did reappear and immediately flew across the road again, with a small rodent in its beak. A quick stop on a fence post (with its back to me, sigh) and then it flew off into the trees. This isn't exactly a good photo, but I was happy I could just see the small rodent in the owl's beak. No matter how many times I see one of these owls and no matter how many hundreds/thousands of photos I've taken of them, each owl is just as exciting as the very first.

Having been so very fortunate to see this owl, I thought I would check one more time to see if the second owl that I saw a few days ago was anywhere in sight. Nothing - but I did watch and photograph a sweet pair of Mountain Bluebirds. Not my 'usual' pair, though I did see them briefly, earlier on my drive.

"Although the Great Gray Owl is the tallest American owl with the largest wingspan, it is just a ball of feathers. It preys on small mammals and has relatively small feet. Both the Great Horned and Snowy owls weigh half again as much, and have larger feet and talons. The oldest recorded Great Gray Owl was at least 18 years, 9 months old and lived in Alberta." From AllABoutBirds.