Owljoy! Some of the Best Photos and Video of the Bird Everyone Is Talking About

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The Great Gray Owl [Photo by Alan Peterson taken yesterday at Elk Prairie Meadow.}

Oh, the pure, unadulterated joy. A Great Gray Owl has been seen in Humboldt County for the first time in 34 years…And, the handsome bird isn’t shy…to put it mildly. Some visitors report the owl has landed within ten feet of them!

The owl was first seen on Wednesday near the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Several of the photos below show this feathered predator stalking prey near Elk Creek Meadow in the park. (If you do go up to see this rare treat, consider trying to carpool as parking is limited.)

Alan Peterson of Redwood Planet Media (his work was recently featured on a PBS Nature show) was out at Elk Prairie yesterday. The fields there, he said, “are riddled with the runways and tunnels of the California vole.” The meadow there has been a favorite hunting ground.

Alan Peterson provided the top photos and the video. (You can see more of his photos of the owl here.)12615748_1063615457024664_3569594249484286069_o12605489_1063615367024673_2587612489533487625_o 12513810_1063615263691350_3126306979946780086_o

Photo below by former Supervisor Jill Duffy.
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44 comments

  • Amazing photos, owls are strange critters.

  • Such a handsome Creature!

  • So magnificent!!Love to see these beauties back.We live in the most beautiful place on earth,if I was a bird this is where I’d want to soar!!!!thanks again for the photos,their amazing.

  • sharpen your pencil

    I’m just confused why they say the first sighting in 34 years. I’ve seen one around my parents place on west end road for decades…. just because people don’t blast pictures all over Facebook doesn’t mean they went missing or extinct.

    • Get a picture, then it would be properly documented.

      • sharpen your pencil

        If you think I give a rats ass about documentation you are out of your mind. I’m happy knowing it or they are there and I won’t be telling anyone where it is anytime soon. The owls don’t want to be pestered by some group of people who feel the need to flock to an area just to chase it back into the depths of the forests.

      • sharpen your pencil

        Pleasing a populace of pompous asshats isn’t what I strive to do with my life, that’s not going to change anytime soon!

    • The likelihood that you have a Great Gray Owl on west end road, regularly, for decades is incalculably low. There are a couple of other large species of owl that you are probably seeing.

    • Lost Croat Outburst

      Great Gray Owls are northern birds that seldom stray this far south. Their rarity here is not a factor of population levels. You may be seeing Great Horned Owls on West End Road which are continent-wide wherever there are trees and prey. Look for the “ears” or “horns” on your large owls. Other species also occur locally. Grays are truly rare at these southern latitudes.

  • sharpen your pencil

    These animals are amazing to watch, biologists don’t have to create their own world to please themselves. Just because you think you know everything doesn’t mean you do! You just have an educated guess, that’s right a guess.

    • Shoulds like you need a dose of your own advice. Just because you think you know everything doesn’t mean you do!

    • Lost Croat Outburst

      What is your terrible problem? This is a wonderful post with fantastic photos and a great video. It’s all good. Why do you hate science? Why do you hate an open discussion? Someone offers a differing opinion on an owl on West End Road and you have to go “troll” on us. The animals are amazing to watch and some of us like to ID the species. Period. If you don’t care, then don’t care. Fine. We can ALL enjoy the pictures. Just like Playboy, look at the pictures, forget the text and let us ALL be happy. Can you do that?

  • Awesome pictures, awesome creature, awesome awesome awesome!

  • …sohum’s freebie newspaper, the Independent, often has great front page photos of birds…super clear quality images, locals who really know how to use a camera. They deserve recognition, props to you all!

    • Talia Rose, who lives in Cooks Valley, is the main contributor of great nature photos to the Indie. I wrote for them for seven years, before I went back to school. Great newspaper. Thank you for acknowledging that!

      • I love all of her photos!! She must be so in tune with nature and devoted to her photography to capture the amazing images she does!

    • Talia, is the queen of river otter photographers. No one has photographed and observed them so consistently for years like she has. Even the Fish and Wildlife Service has come to her for otter photographs. She’s out every morning with her camera before she goes to work. Lucky for us she is very generous in sharing her quality work with the Independent and on her Facebook page.

  • I think it’s fantastic long live the owls

  • Since this owl is attracting a lot of visitors, here are some directions and viewing guidelines (thanks to Rob Fowler for putting these together):
    “Hi all,
    Being that the weekend is upon us, and I know of a lot of birders traveling up to Humboldt to see the Great Gray Owl at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, I thought I would mention some suggested guidelines for viewing the bird and give some directions to it for people to reference.
    Directions: Take Highway 101 north of Orick to the Newton B. Drury Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park exit. Drive under the overpass towards the park and very shortly you will come to the large meadow/prairie on your left where the bird is mostly hanging out. Park basically anywhere where there is obvious space along the road (LOTS OF SPACE FOR PARKING) and be sure to make sure you are not parking on dirt along the parkway. Some park rangers have had to ask people to move their vehicles so they aren’t parked on grass or dirt.
    Once parked look all around the meadow for the bird and if you arrive later in the morning or afternoon just look for the cluster of birders pointed all pointed in the same direction. The bird has been on both sides of the road but mostly spends most of it’s time in the southern half of the meadow/prairie (Elk Prairie is the official name, btw). The bird has also been seen a lot right along the road perching on fenceposts and also east of the road perching in short redwoods and some low branches in larger redwoods right along the edge of the meadow.
    The bird has been very accomodating. Nonetheless I think it’s still important to suggest some guideline helpful for viewing the bird while not disturbing it or stressing it out in any way.
    1) Give the bird space. If you give it time and have patience it will come towards you. Give it a lot of respect and don’t crowd it. (Nobody has really done this yet, btw, from what I’ve heard). With patience and time you will get killer photos of this bird as it is SOOOOO obliging and easily observed and will at times get within just FEET of people. Please just let it do that on its own
    2) I’d suggest just staying on either the road or on the trails that surround the prairie. The meadow is where this owls food is (voles mostly, I guess) so please consider staying out of the meadow to get closer looks at the bird. So, please stay on the trails and on the road side of the fencing that surrounds the meadow/prairie.
    3)Try and be as quiet as possible. I think most people are keeping their voice to a minimum but remember that the owl is hunting its prey mostly by sound.
    4) If you happen to see any birders/photographers getting uncomfortably close to the bird please speak up to that person and just let them know in a nice way to maybe back off a little bit. Be considerate about it.
    5) Lastly, I don’t think anybody would do this–especially since it is a public location within a well-traveled state park–but please don’t consider baiting the owl with mice or any other critters. This type of behavior has happened in other locations with owls it and reflects badly on the people taking part in this behavior (mostly photographers). Only trained biologists should ever try and “mouse an owl” in (e.g., Spotted Owl biologists).
    It sounds like everybody that has seen this bird thus far has reported pretty positive experiences with it. With the flood of visitors that will surely be coming up this weekend I just wanted to give a couple of suggestions for making the best of your Humboldt Great Gray Owl experience while also being sure to respect the bird and other birders and photographers that will be present.
    Good luck and greatly enjoy this mythical bird!”

    • Thank you for the tips and the photos!

    • Lost Croat Outburst

      The pictures and videos reminded me of my time on the Six Rivers spotted owl survey since the bird’s behavior and comfort level with humans is much like spotted owls. On the survey team, the guys were always told not to urinate until the bird got its mouse. Very tame. This is a Strix genus owl like the Spotted and, Strix-ly speaking, the behavior appears normal for the genus. Peterson is totally correct, children and ignorant adults must be restrained from too close an approach. Absolutely no baiting or feeding. This good, wet winter (yay) may be flooding out vole burrows and making for an even better hunting zone than usual. Enjoy the show. Another tourist will fly back north with great California stories. Gotta love it. Bird is the word. . . Boppa boppa boppa. . ..

  • Your direction is clear, necessary, welcome and wonderfully organized. Thank You for it all! af

  • Many years ago, one of those dropped from the sky and hit the front of my car on a backroad highway. I freaked. Stopped. Walked back. Searched everywhere. Including the grill of the car. No owl! Anywhere! Scared the daylights out of me, but he seemed to have made it back home under his own steam.

  • Since he seems to be so comfortable with coming that close to humans, has anyone considered that he may have been someone’s pet? Could that be why he’s the first in 34 years? Just curious. He seems to be as curious about us as we are about him.

  • Hoot Hoot Hurray! !

    I have actually seen an owl just like this before in 97″-98″ I got a chance to talk to the old owl it was much bigger then a spotted owl it was sitting on tree branch it was about 6 :15 p.m. that evening It looked right at me and said who the Hoot Are You !!!! and then it flew away and sense then I never saw one like that again and that’s how I just know for sure that that indeed was a Great Gray Owl! that I saw and I will never in my lifetime forget that experience with this owl it was truly magical.

  • Aren’t Owl’s nocturnal? Why is this one so active in the daylight?

  • Amazing! Hope this incredible owl will not become sacrificial lamb. Concerned spotted owl hooter for over thirty years.

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