Sunday, December 27, 2009

Owl and Otter Day

This morning, I was back at Jericho, looking for the otter I had seen five days ago. In the back of my mind, well, perhaps not so very far back, I was also hoping I might come across the Barred Owl I had seen a couple of months ago. While my wishes didn't come quite true, they surpassed all expectations in what turned out to be a giddily happy day.

By the bridge, the tenderness of these two crows caught my eye.
Black Jack and I walked around the pond a couple of times, enjoying the sun and blue skies. Just as we were almost back to the bridge for the second time, I heard ice cracking. There was the otter breaking through, moving gingerly along the thin topping, sometimes falling in, but coming up moments later. I took many pictures, but most were poor. The otter was quite a distance away, and there were lots of branches between us. Happily, this one came out reasonably well.
My day was made. Just a few more pictures, and I thought Black Jack and I might call it a day and head home. As I watched this very flexible heron, I heard a step behind me, and there were my friends, Kitty and Jock, with their dog, Lucy. Jock was hoping to introduce the otter to Kitty and maybe get a few more photos.
Chores at home, or join my friends for another walk around the pond? On this beautiful, sunny day, the decision wasn't difficult.

As I crossed the bridge one more time, this Black-capped Chickadee could not be ignored.
Then, the most amazing luck. Through the kindness and sharp eyes of a couple of people, we were directed to a tree where this Long-eared Owl sat quietly. Only my second owl sighting ever, and you can imagine my euphoria. Not easy to photograph, though. It really wanted to close its eyes and have a nice, restful nap. The crows were raising a ruckus, and every once in a while, flew crazily close, in a kind of attack. The owl would look up momentarily but didn't seem impressed, usually returning to its nap a second or so later. When it did look down, the hunched posture and strange little tufts on its face kept the impressive yellow of its eyes pretty well hidden.
Finally, a clear view of the left eye when it turned to the side.
After a long and oh so enjoyable time with the owl, we finally headed back to the pond. This seagull was extremely vocal.
Even as it slid to a landing on the frozen pond, it continued to cry out.
Jock and I continued to check the area, hoping for another otter sighting. Signs of the season caught my eye a few times.
The otter showed up again, this time in its bed, the one where we had seen it on the 23rd.
I'm not sure if it was the bright sun, or if the otter has silver highlights under its chin.
It seemed to be playing a game with us, leaving its bed, slipping under the ice, sometimes crossing right over to the other side of the pond, and once, poking its head up through a small hold in the ice, right under my nose. I will forever think of that as the one that got away. That curious little face peeking through the hole in the ice was about as cute as cute can be.

When the otter was out of sight, I caught a few more seagulls, this one with stunning patterns on its back..
..and this one seeming to lean into a skate turn.
I watched the ducks as well.
Two more photos of the otter. Here, it was pushing off from its bed, into the water.
And here, it stopped for a moment to sniff the air (or maybe, us).
We left the park, tired after several very full hours. I went home, eager to check out my photos, and quite disappointed when I saw that I had missed the mark on many of them.

Bill and I went back an hour or so later. I was hoping he would have the chance to see the owl, and I have to admit to also hoping to try for a better shot.

There it was, waiting for us. Still sleepy, though.
I did manage to get a shot of its right eye..
..but those tufts continued to obscure its beautiful, yellow eyes.
This was a slightly different downward looking pose, and my last of the day. As with the otter, I know I'll be hoping to find it again. But whether or not that happens, I give thanks for the incredible gift of Jericho Park and the wildlife living there.
Bill took Black Jack for yet another rabbit hunt, while I came across this Towhee.
That was our day, a good one indeed!


  1. Nice blog, CC, and a very interesting assortment of excellent pictures. Some of the otter are extraordinary. Cheers and all the best for the New Years. (No more big new lenses though - not good for competitors)


  2. What amazing owl shots. Their large yellow eyes are truly beautiful. I am fascinated that they have 3 eyelids.

    "They have a normal upper and lower eyelid, the upper closing when the owl blinks, and the lower closing up when the Owl is asleep. The third eyelid is called a nictitating membrane, and is a thin layer of tissue that closes diagonally across the eye, from the inside to the outside. This cleans and protects the surface of the eye."

    Long-eared owls are known to sometimes roost together in Winter. To spot them, keep your head up high in Jericho Park (and don't worry about bumping into other people :)

  3. Thanks for the comments, everyone.

    Shiprock, you are kind:)

    Fred the Dog, how fascinating! Thanks for those great links.

    And anonymous, I'm not sure if you are Wey Mi. If so, thanks for dropping by, and Happy New Year!

  4. Hi Carol!
    Love your owl shots! Wow so lucky you are to have come so close to such an obscure bird! B xox

  5. that long-ear is amazing looking! freaky, even!

    your shots are so beautiful.