A beautiful, cloudless bright day today with a stiff breeze–which made for a quiet day of birding. Five miles outside of Boulder at Walden Ponds–open pits from gravel mining fifty years ago that filled with water and are now a bird sanctuary–mallards and geese made their way across low-lying water. It’s been weeks since our last substantial precipitation. No sign of the bald eagle we saw yesterday afternoon through our binoculars, circling low in the gathering twilight. A few red-winged blackbirds perched in faraway trees.
The one prize viewing of the day was a great horned owl nest high in a cottonwood about a hundred yards off the trail. It was a classic owl nest, a flat array of carefully arranged twigs poking out in all directions. And in the nest, looking for all the world like a cat peering up over the edge–her pointed “ear” tufts and large eyes all we could see of her through field glasses–was mama-to-be brooding her eggs, her head turning slowly this way and that to take in every sound.
How thrilling to see that nest! It took me back to a sighting in my own yard last November. I was raking leaves and, as I headed for the garage and another bag, I happened to look up. There, in a cottonwood, sat . . . something. It was very large and I couldn’t make it out at first. For a moment, I actually thought I’d spied a raccoon (something I’d seen in my yard/trees many times over the years). Then I realized I was looking at the largest, fluffiest, great horned owl I had ever seen. I was so thrilled, I ran to the next door neighbor’s front door, rang the doorbell, and just said, “You have to see this! Come with me.” (Such trusting, lovely souls they are.)
The owl through oohs and ahs, mugged the camera as the neighbor took a photo, and otherwise put up with us (we were quiet and respectful). It hung out in my cottonwood until the evening hunt.