Today I really was standing about 10 feet away from a Boreal Owl! And I was actually seeing it, some of the time. I began this morning at Spenard Crossing in Anchorage, starting about 9:30 and walking around and looking and listening for about two hours. Other birders arrived and left, and eventually I did too. There had been little sign of irritated magpies or jays or chickadees of nuthatches that might indicate they had found the Boreal Owl, and I certainly did not find it. So I took a break to drive around looking for other birds.
I returned to Spenard Crossing just before 1:00 and was sitting in my car thinking about heading out for another circuit along the path when my phone rang. It was Aaron Bowman who had noticed some agitated chickadees and nuthatches and had, with some difficulty, located the BOREAL OWL. When I got there it took a while for him and Enriq Fernandez to get me to see the owl, the very, very hidden owl. We all circled the spruce tree where the owl was perched, trying to see it better, but mostly without success.
Then came the nearly impossible endeavor of trying to get a camera to focus through the branches so I could photograph the owl. Aaron and Peter Scully, who arrived soon, both took pictures and I was also finally able to get in a position where I could find the owl in my viewfinder and get a couple of photos. Peter set us his scope and took some photos, including some with my phone, through the scope. Although none of us was able to get a picture of the whole owl, we could get pictures of its head, its side, feather close-ups, a rear view. Whenever other birders arrived, the only way to be sure they could see the owl was to have them look through the set-up scope first and then they could try to see if they could find it in their binoculars.
It is wonderful that I can (finally) add another bird to my year list, and it is particularly wonderful that it is a Boreal Owl that I can add to my year list. Although I had seen a Boreal Owl in Finland many years ago, I had not seen one before in the United States. My only record of one was one that was heard by all of our group in Girdwood (AK) in March, 2015, on Anchorage Audubon’s spring count. Today is a red-letter day!!