Some Snowy Owls migrate south to Washington state during the winter months. Since I had never seen a Snowy Owl in the wild, I wanted to experience this for myself.
We set out before sunrise and made our way to Damon Point in Ocean Shores. We seemed to be the first people there as we walked out to the end of the spit. It was overcast that morning so sunrise barely made itself known, but we knew what time the sun came up and we arrived at the north beach right about that time. As we stepped out from the trees to the beach, I was disappointed that I didn't see any owls. I was afraid there wouldn't be any and that we had made this trip for nothing.
We decided to trek to the right along the beach, and as we went around the bend, I could see in the dim light a light-colored bird flying high in the sky. Was it an owl? I aimed my camera and took a few shots and then peered at the shots on the LCD screen. Yep! It was an owl!
The owl made it's way nearby and landed in the top of a pine tree. I set my camera into my tripod and fired off a few shots. Then I became patient and watched for when the owl would look my way and I took the shot. Yay! I started doing my usual happy dance when I was happy with my shooting opportunity.
We walked parallel with the owl so that we would be closer without spooking it. I then took more shots. Of course, none of these shots would be too spectacular because it was still pretty dark. Eventually the owl decided it was time to go find another spot and again we walked parallel to get closer. Again, I repeated the process of taking shots and then finally we decided it was time to move on because we could see other owls flying about. I also spotted a pair of people walking in the distance so I knew that we were no longer alone.
Our next destination was to two owls sitting on a log. I wasn't sure how close I would be able to get to them without spooking them so I slowly walked towards them until I felt like I might be pushing the boundary. I set my camera on my tripod and took a few shots, trying to get one with both of them looking at me. Then I slowly inched a bit closer and took a few more shots. I repeated this process of shooting and creeping up closer, but eventually the pair of people I had spied earlier had come along and one of the owls flew away. Bummer. I stayed longer with the remaining owl...although at that moment my better half alerted me to a bald eagle that was flying in the area that we had come from. I took a few shots of the eagle from where I was, but then went back to focusing on my lone owl. I saw the lone owl hunker down in the grass and wondered if it was preparing to go catch something to eat. The owl took off and I realized that it was because the bald eagle was heading our way.
Okay, fine....off to find more owls.
We kept walking around and we spotted owls in trees, on logs, and flying in the sky. In all, I think we saw a total of 8-10 different owls. More photographers were arriving on the scene and we would give a polite nod and a brief hello as we passed. I stopped a few more times for shots and then we decided we would meander back towards the car so we could go grab a shower before leaving town. As we reached the west beach, Jack pointed out an owl flying our way. The owl landed on a log not far from where I was standing so I decided to take one more series of shots.
I figured this was my last chance to see just how close I could get so I played "red light, green light' with the owl. When the owl looked away, I took small forward steps. When he looked my way, I would stop. Inch by inch, I made my way closer. I was getting rather excited because I was closer than I had gotten with any of my other shots. But then Jack alerted me to an owl being followed by a bald eagle. As the owl flew over me, I took as many shots as I could fire off. The eagle caused my owl on the log to fly away and I watched as the eagle chased the other owl far away from the spit.
Okay, time to go. I didn't want to, but I knew that I wouldn't be able to have a shower if I didn't and we had an event to attend later and I didn't want to arrive looking like a grub. The misty ocean air had wreaked havoc on my bangs and there was no way I was going anywhere else looking like that!
As we walked the beach back to the car, we met several photographers heading out asking if we had seen owls, where were they, and how many. We provided the information and they thanked us and we parted ways.
I was glad that it hadn't rained while we were there and I was very happy that I had finally gotten to witness these beautiful birds in the wild.
Copyright © Paula Cobleigh. All rights reserved.
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