Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus
5 October 2013
When John Lichty and I arrived before first light, there was a noticeable odour of skunk - not a particularly unusual smell I must say, so it did not elicit any response on our behalf.
Having censused the Great Egrets Ardea alba, our principal reason for going to Ellacott Lookout, we stayed to see what else we could find. While I was looking through the scope John noticed a large bird fly from a nearby tree into a dense stand of trees at the shoreline. He had not had an adequate look to identify the bird, so I suggested to him that he attempt to flush the bird so that we could see what we were dealing with.
He was successful in inducing a Great Horned Owl, carrying a skunk (hence the odour when we arrived) to fly right in front of me. It landed in a tree farther down the river's edge in an easterly direction, where we were able to get the following pictures. They are not great to be sure, and there is a good deal of foliage partially hiding the bird, but it records our sighting nevertheless. I should point out that several crows were mobbing the owl, aiding us in relocating it.
A Great Horned Owl is not an uncommon bird, but despite its great size and ferocious hunting techniques, it is relatively seldom seen, no doubt due primarily to its nocturnal habits. Well known for its proclivity to capture skunks, one of the few birds of prey to do so, it added great interest to the sighting to see it with this iconic prey.
It flew off with its prize to enjoy its well-earned meal in peace, we hoped.