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You Never Know...

Saturday, January 22nd seemed like a typical Snowmass day, snow was falling and I was prepared for two nice treks through the woods. About 3/4 of the way through my first tour, my group kept hearing the call of Ruby Crowned Kinglets. We stopped to try to locate the birds in the dense spruce trees surrounding us, but they eluded our attempts at spotting them. Just when we were about to give up hope and move on, a birder extraordinaire sighted an owl perfectly camouflaged against the aged bark of an Englemann Spruce.

This Boreal Owl, also known as Tengmalm's Owl in Eurasia (Aegolius funereus), was a small owl. Only standing about nine-ten inches tall. It was perched about fifteen feet off the ground on a low branch, twenty feet off the trail. The owl was very aware of us, but did not seem to care. He/She realized that we were not a threat and would doze off every time we stood still and let silence surround us. When we took a step past the owl, its eyes would open briefly to reassess the situation and go back to sleep. After a few minutes of basking in the wonder of a wildlife sighting, we decided it would be rude to keep the owl awake and continued on our way.

This sighting reminded me that I have the best offices in the world. Although at times Snowmass seems like a ski area, it is truly a wild place. If anything could reaffirm this, it would be sighting an owl between Turkey Trot and Elk Camp Meadows.

Photographs courtesy of Bob Wyers.

~ Howie Kuhn