WC and Mrs. WC set out to eastern Idaho, chasing early spring migration. It’s possible we were just a tad early.
These are, after all, waterfowl, not ice fowl.
But we were tempted to try out new camping arrangements and chase birds because of reports of large numbers of Short-eared Owls in Eastern Idaho. Long-time readers know that we participate in a long-term Short-eared Owl survey which, as it turns out, mostly scientifically documents there aren’t any Short-eared Owls where we survey. So we headed out to see some.
We spent the first night at Mud Lake. We had it to ourselves. And that night were treated to the sounds of waterfowl, cranes and swans. A Great Horned Owl gave us a twilight serenade and at and at least three Long-eared Owls chimed in. There are worse ways to spend the night than listening to owls.
When light returned in the morning, we saw some other birds, too. Thousands of Snow Geese; in the sky, on the ground, moving, sitting, squawking.
The Red-winged Blackbirds certainly thought it was spring. Pretty much every marsh and wetland had males announcing their territories, and there were flocks of hundreds of other Red-wings moving through.
Killdeer were busy pairing up, and even starting to show nest diversion behavior.
But the focus of the trip – other than evaluating alternatives to tents – was Short-eared Owls. The target area for the owls is a well-known marsh. There were dozens of Northern Harriers present, who use much the same hunting techniques. Each had to be checked. As light failed – and failed early, it was a cloudy day – so did hope.
But when the light had faded to the bare minimum for photography, sure enough, at least seven Short-eared Owls appeared, and two of them cooperated by getting close enough.
Most trips for a target species don’t work out. WC couldn’t tell you how many times he has attempted to photograph Northern Goshawks, for example, usually without seeing a single bird. So even a modest success – decent photos in low light – feels pretty good.
And the equipment evaluation part was pretty useful, too. The ground, WC has noted, get a lot harder as you get older. Tents get more and more difficult to clamber in out of. More on that in a future post.