Collections by Carol/ summervp

Collections by Carol/ summervp
a/k/a Prints As Art

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A Slice of Heaven

Birding the Great Grey and the Long-eared Owl's

Copyright © 2017 – Collections by Carol All Rights Reserved

Ok so if you're a birder you'll understand this.  If not, you might not get it.  We weren't birders 5 years ago so when I heard someone say they felt like they had just elevated into heaven when they found a bird they had been looking for, I thought they were crazy.  Well, now I'm crazy!  Really really CRAZY!

Let me start back at the beginning.  It all started just over five years ago viewing pictures on a site that had an ongoing photo contest (Capture Wisconsin).  One that I was regularly submitting to, and one I had enjoyed viewing and voting for others images.  I had gotten to recognize some of the photographers names as I continued to enjoy their images and started to follow their pages.  A group of us soon became friends and started shooting locations together.  Some of us splintered down into even smaller groups pursuing images of things we loved and then became passionate about.  I was in awe of some of the images I had seen that friends had captured of birds and I was captivated by their beauty.  Now to be honest, I have always loved birds.  I have always had bird art on my walls and bird knickknacks in my home, but without a real connection to them. Now I was seeing a connection to something that I could create on my own with my equipment, my skill, my patience.  It would also get me outdoors more and possibly create a hobby that both Roy and I could enjoy together.  It all looked good on paper!

I had talked to some of these photographers, went to a couple of events where they were and started to learn more about birding and shooting birds. It was at this point that WE went to our very first Bird Festival in Horicon.  We did the bus trip an were taken to locations along a route that birds were often found.  We learned the that each of locations along the route were different in their environments and that in turn attracted different kinds of birds and wildlife.  After the festival we spread to other locations like High Cliff State Park, Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, then on to even smaller properties that provided us with different birding opportunities.  We got involved with Wisconsin eBird and several birding Facebook Pages that reported migration patterns of birds and sightings of first arrivals in the state.  Well to say the least we were hooked.  We started to do research to be able to find birds in a specific location. We learned what they ate, where they lived, their mating and nesting habits.  We listened to their calls on tape or at All About Birds so we would recognize their calls and hopefully aid us in locating it.  The more research we did the more we learned the more fascinated we became.  The rest is that is where I will begin with the CRAZY.

Last year in January we traveled all the way up to the Sax Zim Bog for the third year in a row searching for the ever elusive Great Great Owl.  After three years of searching for one we had now not only located and viewed but had also gotten pictures of not only one but two GGO's.  We had friends view and take pics of the same bird at the same time we did...however they had all seen and photographed a GGO before.  This was my first time.  I was a GGO virgin, if you will.  And after viewing, observing and photographing the owl for over an hour it finally tired of us and took off for the deep woods.  I immediately sought out one of my dear friends and we jumped in unison into a high five body smash.  Yup all 200#'s of me airborne with hand extended in jubilation and celebration.  I was no longer a virgin...ah well...a GGO Virgin anyway.  I can't tell you the feeling of finally capturing an image of some form of wildlife you have sought for three years. It is much like what I would believe to be viewing heaven for the first time....its a real HIGH.
Great Grey Owl
This year just a few weeks ago in January, I experienced that same HIGH.  We have been stalking all the eBird reports, friends Facebook pages, along with their friends comments and articles written in newspapers and magazines.  We have been listening closely to any chatter or reference to or about the owls and actively gotten out there to search areas that they have been previously reported being sited at. But only after three long years of learning that they even existed in Wisconsin...have we finally come across ad face to face with our very first Long-eared Owl.  This time with the help of a friend.  Elusive and difficult to track, as they are usually only active at night.   The Long-eared Owl is indeed a treasure to find. Long-eared Owls are lanky and often seem to wear a surprised expression thanks to long ear tufts that typically point straight up like exclamation marks. These nocturnal hunters roost in dense foliage near the trunks of the trees they live in where their camouflage makes them almost impossible to find. During winter these owls often roost in large numbers so if you find one you know there are others around. 
Long-eared Owl

I have to admit...I did not literally elevate myself this year jumping, body slamming or high five-ing as there was no room to do that....we were in deep dense foliage.  And of course I could not vocalize my excitement in fear of disturbing roosting and sleepy owls.  But the feeling inside was one of elation...I believe I actually felt 100 lbs lighter.  Now that is a miracle in itself! Take a look for yourself...isn't it a beauty!

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Carol and Roy Toepke, Owners/Photographers
Collections by Carol
504 Theodore Street
Fremont, WI   54940