An eye for the owls

A gray owl sits on a branch in the Sax-Zim Bog north of Duluth. (Photo by Phil Sinn)

I’ve been looking unsuccessfully for owls on deep woods hikes and long, lonely dirt road bike rides for years.

I would scan the tree tops on river side trails, look deep into frozen swamp land or stop and scour low hanging branches at the edge of quiet meadows. Nothing.

Turns out I was looking in the wrong places.

Last Friday, I spotted a rare snowy owl while sipping a beer in the dining room of the Superior airport restaurant. As Jen and I chatted with friends and munched on salad, I glanced out a large plate-glass window and saw a huge bird swoop into a cattail stand across the road.

The bird was too white to be an eagle and too big to be a seagull.

“I think I just saw a snowy owl,” I said. It was dusk, right around hunting time, and the bird clearly hit the ground like dinner popped its tail out a hole.

“Could be,” someone said. “They get them out here.”

The Upper Deck Restaurant is located on the outskirts of the Superior Municipal Airport: Three runways – two paved and one dirt – on the south side of town. An empty fairgrounds and silent speedway sit nearby.

“This must be a good place to eat if the owls are here,” I said.

A few minutes later, the great white bird rose out of the marsh and flew to a perch atop a utility shed. The dark silhouette against the grey sky confirmed it was an owl.

Our waitress was clearing a booth table in front of the window. I asked her about the bird.

“It’s a snowy owl,” she said, not even looking outside. “We’ve had people out here with tripods trying to get pictures.”

“Seems like a good place for owls,” I said.

“There’s plenty to eat, that’s for sure,” said the waitress, and she headed back to the kitchen with a load of dishes.

A few minutes later our fish arrived plated with rice pilaf and mixed vegetables. I looked out the window between bites at one point, and the mysterious bird disappeared in the darkness.

I think we ate better than the snowy owl that night. We got more food and I know the owl didn’t get a slice of chocolate cream pie for desert.

    * * * *

I’ve included an owl picture my buddy Phil took in Sax-Zim Bog north of Duluth this winter. Phil has a nice website that shows off his wildlife photography skills and other camera work. It’s a picture that hasn’t made his website yet.

The picture shows, what appears to be, a one-eyed gray owl.

Or Perhaps the bird is just winking.  It’s hard to say. Maybe the owl lost its eye in a fight with a hawk or maybe we can’t see one eye due to a low picture angle. Who knows. Still it’s kind of strange to see an owl with just one eye.

And in my case, it’s kind of strange to see an owl at all.


3 thoughts on “An eye for the owls

  1. One eyed Jack! I am a volunteer naturalist at Sax Zim Bog. I know this bird. There were lots of great gray owls to be seen this winter, but they do know how to hide. Lots of snowy owl, northern hawk owl,.and great gray owl pics on my blog from this winter in the Duluth area. I suspect you saw #32 in Superior which hangs out by runway #14


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