What to do when a Barred Owl surprises you for a picnic?
Don’t pull out your camera. Don’t finish making that peanut butter sandwich. Don’t shoo away that bee buzzing around your food.
That’s what 8 of us did when a Barred Owl swooped in at lunch time and picked up a vole by our picnic table. Once the prey was trapped securely in its talons, it perched on a nearby branch and proceeded to munch on its lunch.
At first we were tense and expecting our visitor to fly off as quickly as it appeared. But as it dined on its catch, we started to notice the sounds and the way this bird moved. It was so close. And it was daylight! We were lucky to be in this small grassy area with only two picnic tables and very little foot traffic. The WONDER crept in and we just sat in awe. 4 adults and 4 kids silently agreeing to soak up the moment.
The cameras only came out when it flew much further away into a tree across the street. We knew we’d sacrificed the perfect shot when it was close, but it was worth it. So I dug in the trunk for my better camera with zoom and this is what I got:
YES! I can’t believe I got this shot. If you’ve ever tried to catch birds on camera, you know it’s incredibly difficult.
We later identified the owl with our Sibley Guide as a Barred Owl. Not normally seen in the Pacific Northwest and actually encroaching on Spotted Owl habitat. But it seems to be a more common sight as of late.
And after reading more about it on my favorite All About Birds website, I also learned that it has brown eyes when most owls have yellow eyes. Its call? “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” Click over to learn more about this incredible bird and hear its call.
Location: San Juan Islands, Washington
Fun Fact: The family we were traveling with is now worldschooling their children and sharing their amazing photography on Instagram (@travelingfilmmaker and @travelingmelmt). Melynda and I co-authored an ebook about traveling to Yellowstone.