Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Whooo Ya Gonna Call?

Back in March, B and I were traipsing through Lord Hill Regional Park. We’d just got done with the River Trail, and were trudging back along the main trail. It was getting near sunset, and the woods were dusky, with only occasional glimpses of the sun. The usual wind rustling branches, little birds chirping, and sometimes planes flying by filled the silence. And there was a loud, echoing call in the distance. I thought it was kids making silly animal sounds. It became a sort of background noise. I didn’t think much of it.

Then we were upon the source of the sound, and I realized it wasn’t kids, it was an animal. An avian dinosaur! A member of the owl family, in fact. B and I stopped, enthralled, and listened to the haunting hoots. The thing was loud. We’d been hearing it over half the park, and now it boomed.

I looked round, and saw a lump in a tree a bit off the trail.

Image shows a silhoutte of trees, branches, and a huddled lump on a branch against a blue sky.

I pointed it out to B. We were both excited like little kids. You rarely see owls in the wild in the suburbs round here. I hadn’t seen any for almost eight years. When Victoria and I first moved up here, we’d walked down to Juanita Bay, and were coming back at dusk when a gawdawful racket started up in the roadside forest. There were a couple of screech owls yapping away in the trees. Alas, my camera at that time was horrible, so I haven’t any photos or videos.

Fortunately, my current camera, although aging, is still supremely capable of handling difficult conditions, so I’ve got both for ye of this owl.

Image is a zoom. There's just a wee bit of sunlight, enough to pick out a little bit of light colors on the tips of its feathers, but it's still mostly a dark lump.

I felt it looking at us, and I thought it would shut up and go away now that icky humans were here. But it didn’t care. It kept piping up at intervals, and stayed put.

I've changed the brightness, so we can see a tiny bit more detail. The owl is looking at us over its shoulder. It seems rather condescending.

Another pair of hikers joined us. The owl continued not giving a shit as the humans did the ooo aw owl! routine on the trail.

A zoomed-out image, brightened to show the owl a bit more clearly. The light bars on its brown feathers form a neat stippled pattern.

Owls have a reputation for being wise. I think it’s because they can look so professorly. You know, the kind of professor who’s absolutely fucking brilliant and highly impatient with people slow on the uptake. The kind of professor who won’t say they despair of you, but will give you that specific look that makes you realize you have failed to impress them with your intellect.

Another zoomed image. The owl is looking over its shoulder again with a oh-dear-what-silly-plebians expression.

And then they do this thing with their heads where they just look spooky.

The owl has lifted its head, and now looks like the classic spooky-owl staring at us.

Many of you probably already know what our owl is, even though the lighting was awful, it was too far away for good images, and there are limits to photo manipulation. But here’s a highly-altered photo that will hopefully help you be certain of your identification.

The owl has its head down, but the bars on its feathers are clearly visible.

And we have a video! You can hear it hooting! Alas, it wasn’t hooting at regular intervals, and I was running out of memory and battery power, but I caught a couple good hoots. You can hear B explaining the situation to our hiker friends. Sorry about the shaky-cam – the little bastard was in a very high tree, so I had to hold the camera up over my head, and I am not the steadiest human. Image stabilization software murdered the clarity, so shakes it is. It’s still an awesome owl!

On a later visit, we heard it calling again. Hopefully, we’ll get even better video and pics someday, and by then, you’ll have told me what it is!

Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Whooo Ya Gonna Call?

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