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February 20, 2012

Birdiest of Birders! The odds were against us on Saturday (hail, horizontal ice pellets alternating with rain, limited visibility, more ice pellets, snow, slush) and yet we persevered. Off to Whitby we went in search of the Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons), which is hardly white at all, but rather brownish grey fronted, but then again I wasn’t around to consult Carl Linnaeus, or whoever came up with this misnomer. Instead, all we saw were HUNDREDS of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) singing up a storm and flying overhead. I’m glad the species is thriving and no longer struggling for survival in this toxic world we live in, don’t get me wrong, but do there have to be this many of them? Anyhow, after the doubly humbling assault of the elements and the flock of Canada Geese, we decided to abandon waterfowl for the day and try our luck in Thickson’s Woods.

We walked around the woods some, met another fellow birder, who, I must admit, is on the more obsessive-birding end of the spectrum. Jim Martin has been to Peru at least a dozen times, to Borneo a few times and has a life list he’s quite proud of. He was a perfectly amiable fellow and even let me try his stunning Zeiss Victory FL binoculars (new, state of the art, optic awesomeness, so light I could wear them on my neck like a real birder instead of carrying them in my hand like an ingenue…) and if I had $2000 to spend on binocs, these are the ones I’d get. Hands down. Actually, I had a dream about Carl Zeiss last night, but we’ll save that for another blog entry. Perhaps.

And then we saw it. My fearless leader hooted a couple times, and the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) responded in his Chaliapin-esque melodious bass. And there it was. Up in a tree, scratching his nose (thank you Zeiss, I never would have seen the nose scratch with my Bausch and Lomb), looking about, surveying the world around him. It was a monumental sight.

photo from wikipedia

(Incidentally, I know there is nothing on earth more boring than talk of optics or binoculars comparative shopping, but if you had my aging binoculars when you were staring up at a majestic Great Horned Owl, you’d understand my predicament.)

And the day was worth it. The snow pellets, rain, hail, all of it.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 20, 2012 11:12 am

    Julia, what a great post! I’m thrilled that you got to see a Great Horned Owl up real close with those bionic things 😉 I didn’t even know such advanced binnies existed. I have a tiny, aging Bushnell, but they’ve served me well over the years and have even been to Thailand (where a local birder-guide took my Mom and I to see Great Hornbills and other wonders in Khao Yai national park) and back. I guess even the Horned One gets an itchy nose once in a while. Best of luck on your next outing to see the GWF-Goose … Love your writing!

    • February 21, 2012 9:47 am

      Ah, thanks so much for reading! Wow — birding in Thailand! That sounds incredible. I’ll keep you posted on the GWF goose, too…though I’m also ok if we don’t see it this season.

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