Except for three miserable years in Chicago, WC has never lived outside the range of Great Gray Owl. We are both creatures of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, WC supposes. Yet it is a bird rarely seen and, at least in WC’s case, rarely photographed. In this blog post, WC will introduce you to the five Great Gray Owls WC has photographed.1
The first and most familiar to readers, of course, is (P)earl the Great Gray Owl that lived with WC and Mrs. WC for many years. WC calls him (P)earl, because when he lived with us he was believed to be a male, so he was Earl, as in Earl Gray. When WC and Mrs. WC moved to Idaho, Earl moved to Anchorage where the folks at Bird TLC determined by blood work that Earl was a female, and renamed her Pearl. (P)earl had suffered a wing injury – she was probably struck by a car – and couldn’t fly more than a few feet, so ended up as an immensely popular educational bird.
Nabesna Road is the other way to drive into Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park. It runs south off of the Tok Cut-Off to the base of the Wrangells. It gets very little traffic. This beautiful lady is staring intently at her branched fledgling.
Mrs. WC was lecturing this young bird on the dangers of being in the road, and might have mentioned the experience of (P)earl. The fledgling is wet because it had just crossed the ditch in the background, which had water running down it. Owlets leave the nest on foot, a process called “branching,” before they can fly. Mrs. WC, supervised by the adult, picked up the fledgling and carried her a bit off the road, placing the kid on a branch.
Mrs. WC spotted this handsome fellow while we were hiking on the saddle between the Payette and Salmon River drainages, north of McCall, Idaho. By the somewhat smaller size, it was a male, and went about his hunting not much troubled by the humans oohing and aahing.
Mrs. WC spotted this handsome lady in some brush along a side road in Gem County earlier this year. She was hunting, gave the two birders a glance and then resumed carefully scanning the field for potential prey.
And that’s it. Some 20 years of serious bird photography and just 5 – well, 4.5, as it were – bird photos of this species. And one of them was a captive bird, and shouldn’t really count. WC counts himself lucky to have that many.
1 Technically, there have been six. WC and two friends spotted a Great Gray Owl perched in sage brush. Not your typical Great Gray habitat. This is a cell phone photo, digitally zoomed, useful only for identifying the bird and habitat.