Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.

Owl courtesies

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: December 25, 2013 - 9:24 AM

There are basic courtesies to keep mind when observing birds. These are necessary to accommodate both birds and other observers. This morning a fellow wrote on the Minnesota birding email network of his experience yesterday with both a Snowy Owl and a jerk birder. The young man and his girl friend searched for six hours in the area where many Snowiest have been reported in the past few weeks. This is generally east and southeast of St. Cloud. Six hours, and they finally found one. They parked far enough from the owl to make a spotting scope useful, and placed themselves behind some evergreens to avoid spooking the bird. This is how it should be done. Shortly after settling into place they watched as a jerk (my word) stopped his car directly beside the bird and caused it to fly away.

Right now we have excellent opportunities to see these beautiful birds with a relatively short drive (and searches don't always take six hours). When we go we should be considerate of the birds and other birders. The owls often stay in or near a single location for hours or days. Location information is passed among birders (and posted to a web site called eBird; Google it and find the Minnesota owl map), so spooking the bird and causing it to change locations can spoil sightings for many people.

Go see the birds if you can. They are worth the trip. For information on recent sightings, remembering that the birds do move around, go to www.birding.aba.org, find Birding News, and search Minnesota MOU-net for Snowy Owl.

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