Thursday, October 24, 2002

Sun-Bathed Owl

Late last Friday afternoon (October 18), I was zooming down Route 9 in Jefferson County, West Virginia, along with the usual host of daily commuters, anxious to return home after a 4-day business trip. Rounding the big curve at Bardane, my eyes caught sight of a huge, vulture-sized bird with the jizz of an owl perched on a roadside utility line. I quickly made a U-turn at the next available opportunity and drove to a point where I could safely view the bird at close range. As expected, it was a Great Horned Owl. What it was doing abroad in full daylight, I have no idea. At 5:50 PM, the sun was setting low in a cloudless sky, bathing the owl in subdued sunlight. In the five minutes that I had the owl under observation, a lone Northern Mockingbird approached it a couple of times but did not seriously harass the owl. The owl seemed to be “nonchalantly” inspecting traffic. Yesterday (October 23)--the first I had travelled Route 9 since the 18th--I was amazed to again see a Great Horned Owl (presumably the same bird) perched on a roadside utility line at Bardane in full daylight at 5:40 PM. Two things about these observations strike me as odd: (1) the presence of the bird in an exposed situation in broad daylight, and (2) it’s use of a roadside utility line as a perch. Could this be a young and naive bird, perhaps, or, alternatively, a bird that is sick or injured?

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