I was still working at Wild Birds Unlimited then and had been hearing a few stories about this owl irruption, but hadn't been paying much attention. Then one Saturday evening on the NBC Nightly News, I saw this story about the owls and featuring Sharon Stiteler. Oh My Gosh, I could barely function the rest of the evening! First of all there were these huge numbers of owls (practically in my backyard) that would never be seen again in my lifetime (according to the story) and secondly there was the Birdchick! I was amazed to actually see this young woman who was so interested in birds (freakishly so, according to her website). It was almost like getting permission to "come out of the closet" so to speak. If this cute, young woman could go on national TV and be so excited about birds, then I wasn't going to hide my feelings anymore either.....and the rest is history.
So anyway, I talked my spousal unit into a couple weekend trips up north and were disappointed to see only a few owls. I don't know how we got on the subject, but one day my sissy and I had a brainstorm and decided that the two of us should try an owl trip together. So we took a little time off work and went up on a Thursday afternoon so we could get an early start looking for owls on Friday. We stayed at a nice (and inexpensive) motel in Moose Lake and used that as our starting point. Since I had already been up there a couple times, I was familiar with the roads to travel.
Following our usual birding trip agenda, we got an early start after loading up on snacks and coffee and headed out. It was cold that morning--above zero, but not very far. The sun was just starting to peek over the horizon when we saw our first Great Gray Owl. It was actually too dark yet to even take a picture, but there it was....a good sign for what would turn out to be an incredible day.
We continued driving slowly down the country roads and stopped whenever we would see an owl. (A nice schoolbus driver even stopped on his route to make sure we weren't having car trouble.)
Some in trees.
Some on power lines and poles.
Some on fenceposts right next to the road! (I think Sissy was about 6 feet away from this owl when she took this picture)
The amazing thing was that we could stop the car, get out, and take pictures and these owls didn't fly away! I tried hooting at them and Wow, did that ever get a reaction. If they weren't looking in our direction, as soon as they heard me hoot, they would swivel their head around so Sissy could snap a picture.
We started seeing so many owls we were having trouble keeping track, so I pulled out my handy-dandy knitting row counter and clicked it every time we saw another owl. I can't remember the exact number, but by the end of the day we had seen over 70 of these wonderful birds.
And there were bonus birds too:
A Northern Hawk Owl
Bald Eagle sitting at the top of an evergreen
We had a blast on this trip and I'm glad Sissy came along with me because she was the driver while I scanned the landscape for owls. And even though we got to see all those cool owls, I think my favorite picture from the trip is this one:
My Sissy up to her butt in snow in the road ditch! She was going to try and walk over for a better picture and we had no idea the snow was this deep--it was March for cryin' out loud! She handed me the camera to put back in the car for safekeeping and I couldn't resist snapping this picture before helping to pull her out.