H’owl You Get Rich?

by Matt Amstutz | Oct 1, 2022 | 0 comments

Short-eared Owl on fence post
Long-eared Owl. Photo © Matt Amstutz.

Brrr. My arms trembled. My hands shook. I strained to steady the lens in the -10° C (14° F) chill. But was it the cold making me shiver? Or was something like elation pulsing through me? That owl—I had to capture its portrait—in our own backyard!

Whirr. Only six minutes before, the coffee beans whistled as the grinder spun them into a crushed, fragrant heap. I was hurrying through my usual after-school chores one afternoon, hoping to add minutes to the excursion I had planned before supper. Who said a birder couldn’t go hunting gold in the winter on a bike? Wind and snow wouldn’t stop me from strapping on a backpack and peddling my way toward territory where owls had been sighted.

Two days before, I had taken a 2 km (1¼ mile) ride down the road and spotted a Short-eared Owl. Though we live 6 km (4 mi) from the entrance to Point Pelee National Park, famous for its nature experience, with another 6 kilometres to the southernmost point of Canada’s mainland, this owl is not a common sighting in the area.

But all I had to show for that attempt was half-frozen skin. Maybe today…?

All I needed to do yet was fill the coffee maker with water. I reached for the pitcher beside the kitchen sink and glanced out the window. Now what was that? Against the backdrop of a snowy field, a mottled brown something perched atop a fence post 50 meters/yards from the house. Ahh. A piece of trash must have floated through the air and gotten hung up. I opened the faucet and peered again. Wait. It wasn’t trash. Could it be? Was it an owl? A short-eared at that?

“Hey Mom! Isn’t that an owl out there on the fence post?”

“Go.” Mom almost shoved me away from the sink. “Yes, it is an owl! Get your camera. God sent it right to you!”
I claimed a few shots from the open kitchen window, then slipped out the side door. I paused at the backyard gate and fired a few more. Still it perched contentedly. Then it slipped over to the neighboring post, settled down, and posed. Its large yellow eyes nearly beckoned my approach. This was thrilling. It had to be more exciting than hunting for real gold!

I unlatched the gate, inched closer, focused and fired, inched closer, focused and fired. I kept up the rhythm until I was less than 15 meters/yards away. Aww. That’s when Owl decided to join its friend winging across the field, right toward the road I would’ve taken for a bike ride.

Was this real? Had I actually received a personal visit from one of God’s avian creations? I tramped back to the warmth of the house, shivering. But I sure felt warm inside.

It doesn’t take dollars to make you feel like a millionaire. H’owl you get rich? All I did was capture some photos.

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