Images by Rina Miele

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Close Encounters of the Barred Kind

November 8, 2018 — Since before sunrise, I had been driving around the tristate area, scouting, looking for owls. In the afternoon I got a lead on a Barred Owl. I didn’t want to drive the distance but I had to check it out. I’d imagine he’d be gone by the time I made it over - but I had to try. When I arrived, I pretty much lost all hope. I proceeded to inspect the area he was seen in but I saw nothing — when just then, I looked over my shoulder, and at eye level, and there he was, a few feet away, grinning with those big black eyes of his. He was so still and did not flinch. I set my camera up across the path, so he could get some rest and I would not disturb him.

As the sun went down, he began to awaken. He hunted right in front of me - it was amazing. He ate four earthworms - slimy yet satisfying, I suppose. It was an intimate moment and I felt so much joy from watching him there, all by myself. He let me have that special moment. And I won’t forget it.

Two days ago, my friend discovered a mess of feathers and the remains of this poor owl. This sweet, sweet Barred Owl was killed. We all suspected the nearby Great Horned Owl pair - as they can be very aggressive this time of year. But more folks started to pin the blame on the even-more-aggressive Goshawk that was lurking in the park. 

Canon 5D Mark IV + EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 IS II USM - 1/500 at f/5.6, ISO 16,000

Canon 5D Mark IV + EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 IS II USM - 1/500 at f/5.6, ISO 16,000

I’m filled with a great deal of sadness as I recall my time with the owl, and realize that he’s gone. Understandably, this is the way of nature, but I felt so close to nature when the Barred let me into his world that afternoon. How polarizing it can be.

Rest in Peace, sweet owl. I won’t soon forget you.

Rina Miele