Saturday, February 25, 2006

Definitively a Great Gray

Late this afternoon I sat down for a break to read up on some research on my inherited wall clock. My mother gave me a wall clock that has been in her family for 80 some years. After some Internet research I found literature that helped me identify the maker and origin of the clock. It led me further to some online bookstores that sold books on this specific clock maker, now identified as Gustav Becker a well know clock maker from Freiburg in what was then Germany and now part of Poland. Gustav Becker died in 1885 but the company remained in existence up to WW2.

Yesterday we received a parcel notice from the post office. Since our mailbox is too small, it had to be picked up in the village. I had ordered the two books about Gustav Becker so I was expecting this parcel to be those two books. So this morning I drove the 6 country kilometres (4 or so miles) through white open fields into the Kars village though a snowstorm to retrieve my anticipated prize. All the while, Carroll has been tentatively watching the Turin 2006 Winter Olympics this morning which interested me too but not as much as this.

So during my break I read up on the clock and found out that it was in fact built or sold in 1926. It was still blowing and snowing outside, and so hard that the snow created horizontal lines in the air against the gray wooded background.

Then out of the corner of my eye I could make out a large bird alighting in a red pine tree very close to the house. At first I automatically assumed that it was a turkey as it was a big black bird. Then after further examination it had a round head with a noticeably flat face that rotated like a turret. It was not a turkey but an owl. The bird was perched in the far side of the tree so it was difficult to identify. After several minutes at that perch it flew to another tree near the front of the house. I was now able to get a few photos of it with our portrait camera which were not the best but better than nothing – I ought to get a better camera some day. The background was gray and the subject was gray, and also it was starting to get dark, all of which colluded to create what amounts to a black and white photograph. As you will see from the above picture it was perched with its back to us, but at times when it swiveled its head to the side I was able to make out the white swipe mark below its eye discs. The owl later moved to a lower perch and faced directly towards us. We were now able to clearly see the mustache shaped white marks below the eye discs. This is a characteristic mark and it confirmed without a doubt that we were looking at a Great Gray Owl [Strix Nebulosa].

Back in February 13th last year, I had reported a sighting of a grey owl but the evidence was not definitive. That post also provides considerably more detail about the owl and the fact that it was not a natural bird in this area and that such sightings are usually accidental. The gray in fact has become a regular in these parts for the last couple of years, during winters.


Anonymous said...

a very interesting, post, Piet. I remember that Great Gray post from last year. Wisconsin newspapers identified the Great Gray as a Canadian denizen, though, which is interesting since you believe it is not a normal resident.

I think you probably got the best picture possible given the challenging circumstances - getting dark, visibility obscured by driving snow, and so forth. In such a case, a digital portrait camera set to its highest resolution would be better, I'd guess, because of its light-gathering abilities.

Thanks for an interesting article!
Pete Leenhouts/Port Ludlow WA

Woodlot_Manager said...


In this shot I used the maximum three times optical zoom as well as the three times digital zoom, and then cropped the photo, hence the photo poor quality.