I was at Point Reyes National Seashore a few weeks ago and saw many creatures I typically see there such as tule elk, black-tailed deer, coyotes, bobcats, red-tailed hawks, harriers, kestrels and quail. I also saw a white-tailed kite and several male elephant seals.
I also saw something that is not too uncommon, but a little harder to find on any given day. Based on the photo of its eyes below, do you know what critter it is?
It has feathers so it’s obviously a bird. Its eyes are located at the front of its face for binocular vision for judging distance and that leads one to think it’s a predatory bird such as a hawk or owl. The eyes are very large and the pupils are especially large which suggests that it hunts at night.
If you guessed it’s an owl you’re right. What kind? It’s the most commonly seen owl at Point Reyes, or almost anywhere, a great horned owl.
You may be wondering how I got what appears to be such a close-up photo of the bird’s eyes above. There was a reason for that. In addition to the assistance of an 1120mm super-telephoto lens and significant cropping, the owl was perched in a bush on the shoulder of the road. While hawks perch close to roads on fence posts, it struck me as odd that an owl would perch in a bush within a few feet of the road in daylight. Then I noticed what might have been the reason. The bird’s left wing droops. I think it had just injured its shoulder.
I did see it fly from one bush to another. That was a relief. I don’t know how it got the droopy wing. My guess is it either tangled with a car or the barbed wire fence that runs along the road right below where the bird was perched. About a year ago, I found a harrier about 1/4 mile down the road from where this owl was. It was standing on the road and its wing was obviously broken. I put it on the shoulder of the road and reported it to a ranger who was nearby. The likely explanation for that injured bird is that it tangled with a vehicle. Several years ago I found a common egret next to a barbed wire fence with a broken wing. I assumed at the time that the egret had flown into one of the barbed wires on the fence it was standing next to. I don’t know, of course, exactly what happened to this owl with the drooping wing, but I think flying into a vehicle or the fence are the most likely causes. I hope it leads a long life.