One of these days I will learn that even on what would ordinarily be a mundane fishing outing it's always worth bringing a camera along because you just never know what will present itself. I had a couple hours in the afternoon after an optometrist appointment Wednesday so I grabed my minimalist fly pack (two boxes of flies on belt pack) and headed up the road to Morgan Run.
The fishing itself was rather ordinary. The water was gin clear and the fish were pretty spooky from almost two months of being fished over since stocking. There was a sparse midge hatch that had a few trout feeding on the surface but that was it for insect activity.
I was working my way upstream catching the occasional brown when I came around a bend and saw a rather large critter sitting on a rock in mid-stream about 50 yds in front of me. I couldn't figure out what it was so I started to slowly move forward. It spread it's wings and flapped once landing behind a small shrub on the opposite bank. At least now I knew it was a large bird of some kind. I still could not get a good look at it but from its size and coloration I was thinking a small wild turkey.
As I got closer the bird kept moving into thicker streamside brush so it wasn't until I was about 25' away and the bird was facing me that I was able to make out it was a great horned owl. It's amazing how their coloration blends into the background. It just stayed there watching me fish. I picked off a nice little brown from the tail of the pool and while the fish was splashing on the surface the owl crossed the stream to the other bank and continued to watch me while I fished out the pool.
I was kicking myself for not having my camera as this was the first owl I'd seen in many years. I think the owl may have been molting as it seemed very reluctant to fly preferring to just walk around on the ground. From the distance I was, I could have gotten some really nice shots with the 10X zoom on my digital. I watched the owl for about 10 minutes before continuing my fishing up the stream. The bird for his part seemed to be content to watch me watching him.
I wound up catching a half dozen browns but the highlight of the afternoon was definitly the owl.
That's an afternoon well spent. I've never seen an owl that would let a person approach that close. I wonder if it was injured? Raptors don't lose so many feathers at any one time in a molt that they can't fly because they would be unable to hunt and therefore starve. Maybe he just wanted a trout.
Until I saw the bird fly back across the stream the second time I thought it might have been injured but it's flight appeared normal. For some reason, it just did not appear to be agitated by my presence. For about 10 minutes I was no more than 50' from the bird. It just sat there watching me fish. If it were scared it could have easily just walked away or flown in short hops as it had already done in crossing the stream twice.
I suppose it could have been hanging around for a nice trout meal but I don't think I've ever come across anything to indicate owls could catch a fish like an ospreys or eagles.
We use to get owls behind our house in PA; we could hear them up in the hedgerow not 30ft away from the house. We would also see them sitting on the fencepost at dusk on the hills behind us, it look like they just fell off the post and glided along only inches off the ground and grab a mouse.
Except for the fact that the owl was sitting on a large rock in the middle of the stream at the tail of a particularly nice, trout filled pool, I would not have even given a thought about it, but you never know. Maybe there was some other critter after the trout that spooked before I got close and the owl was hanging around to steal it. I've come across owls on occasion at dawn or dusk but this one was in the middle of a sunlit afternoon, go figure. Sure wish I'd had my camera along.
Thats so cool! Coincidentally, several years back I was fishing downstream from Jim Bowers Rd and a huge barred owl was gliding through the trees on the opposite side of the river towards me. It scared the livin crap outta me. I didn't hear it, it just caught the corner of my eye. I looked up and boy did it ever startle me...I prolly screamed. Beautiful sight though.
I can tell you as a Prof. Photographer for about 27 yrs Ive experienced the same crazy stuff. The only thing I can do is recommend obtaining a small dig. camera, the kind you can throw in your pocket, 4 megapixels is all ya need. Fortunately every maker's got one. I just bought an open box deal for my daughter at Radio Shack last week, $29.95 Fuji 3 megapixel. Small enough to put in your pocket, got a xD card thru ebay for $16 couple AA batteries and thats about it. Make sure to use fill flash for closeups, within say 20 ft. and use the Avg white balance. If your real creative shoot raw file and adjust everything later, but for most jpeg best to save time. Good shooting.