It never seizes to amaze me what thrives within Tigard OR, wooded trail systems. During a rare moment in time my wife Beth and I were walking our dogs on the genesis path that runs parallel to Fonner Street when we heard the distinct hooty-hoot of an owl. At that moment our Irish setter Molly stopped in perfect pointer stance with head drawn upward. We followed in suit and what we saw next was amazing. Not further than 20 feet away, and about the same distance up and off the trail – There it was perched ready for a photo… a NW spotted owl.
The Pacific NW is home to old growth forest filled with a multitude of natural resources. Within the old growth forests still dwell the elusive spotted owl. It was more than 20 years ago when the northern spotted owl was listed under the Endangered Species Act as a threatened species in Washington, Oregon, and California. “Today, the spotted owl is stable in a few areas and declining in most others. The two main threats to its survival are habitat loss and competition from the barred owl, a relative from eastern North America that has progressively encroached into the spotted owl.”
These owls are still a protected class of bird and nearly as hard to come across as a big foot. Of course the difference here, no ones ever captured a Squatch or Yeti to prove their existence. The thing that captured my immediate focus were those menacing black eyes. Childhood memories of tales of the crypt and sleepy hollow immediately came to mind with an owl you don’t cross paths, especially on the eve of Halloween.
We’ve both seen owls before, but never this close and never a spotted one. In the moment I thought “why I picked today to leave my Nikon camera at home,” I’ll never know. Fortunately, like the speed and precision of Annie Oakley, the famous markswoman who worked with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in the 1880s, Beth drew her weapon of choice – the iPhone.
She shot a perfect picture in seconds and without delay before it took flight. My only regret was not capturing it’s nearly 4 foot wingspan taking flight through the woods on video as it cleared the tree canopy. I’m hopeful there’ll be a next time since it appears likely at least one of these birds maybe a seasonal visitor or resident of Tigard’s old growth forest.
Now go and get your walk on daily to stay fit healthy. And don’t forget to have a camera ready while hiking the great NW. Sasquatch is out there somewhere.
Good health to you and your family.
10/18/19 – Recent update on this article. It has been brought to my attention the image of the spotted owl photograph taken in Tigard is likely an interbreed barred-spotted owl, or barred owl.
What we’ve learned by one local bird expert who chimed in on the within NextDoor social chat sight and has decades of experience writes, “Barred Owls have a paler crown with brown scalloping vs dark brown with small white spots. Their facial discs are paler than Spotted. Spotted Owls are very nocturnal and do not call except at night while Barred Owls often sit out in the open and call during daylight hours.
The second local expert also has decades of bird watching experience sent TigardLife the following reply, ” We have several [barred owls] in Durham City Park, for example. The Northern Spotted Owl is a rare and declining resident of deep older-growth forests. Part of their decline is due to logging and forest fragmentation, but an additional factor is competition and even interbreeding from the closely-related but more aggressive Barred Owl.
Distinguishing attribute markers for both owls, “Both birds have a classic, round owl face and dark eyes. The barred owl has creamy breast feathers marked with vertical bars of brown, while the spotted owl, like a negative image of that, is mostly brown with a Morse code of white dots and horizontal dashes” [as defined by Google search].
This article presents a teachable moment! You decide what type of owl is in the photograph captured by Elizabeth Woodard, a spotted owl, barred owl, or interbreed owl. One thing both bird experts had in common, they didn’t believe it was a spotted owl. However without a front breast shot of the owl it’s a harder call to make.
You decide what’s more likely. Is owl in the picture at the beginning of the story a spotted owl, barred owl, or interbreed owl.
To learn more about the spotted and barred owl contact the Portland Audubon Society on NW Cornell Road, including their rehabilitation center for injured birds.
Marc Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, ARNG, CPT, RET., is a Fit Healthy Lifestyle Consultant with MirrorAthlete Corp., and former Tigard City Councilor. A strong proponent of City involvement in providing recreational opportunities for its residents. 2019 copyright. All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Inc., “To learn more about MirrorAthlete and free monthly newsletter, visit: www.mirrorathlete.org.