"Your patience will be rewarded."
Alton Brown, TV Chef, "Good Eats"
As I walked and walked, in endless circles, following the footsteps in the snow of a Birder from the previous day, searching and searching for a small owl hidden within any one of a hundred evergreen trees, those words kept me going. Each time I looked in a tree and didn't see an owl, or thought I saw an owl and it turned out to be tree bark or a pine cone, I thought "patience, patience." That was on Wednesday in Bronte Creek Provincial Park. I walked a large part of the park near the parking lots, hoping for a Saw-Whet or any old owl, for that matter, but with no luck. I did see a couple of Red-tailed Hawks, including a juvenile, but not much else.
Today, I decided to go back, since I had a few hours free this afternoon and even though it was damp out, the rain had stopped, it was warm enough, at 7 degrees C. The snow was gone, so there were no footsteps to follow in, but I just decided to take my time and examine every tree, one by one, knowing my patience would eventually, hopefully, be rewarded with a glimpse of the elusive Northern Saw-whet Owl. No owl. Don't give up. Keep looking. I saw a lot of bark, some pine cones, some things that looked like owls until I focused the binoculars. Still nothing.
I was then distracted by a small blue bird that flew by outside the little pine forest I was wandering. I decided to check it out. Low and behold, an Eastern Bluebird. See, my patience was rewarded. I stayed long enough to see a new bird for the year. I followed the bird and soon discovered at least half a dozen. I chased them into a larger tree, that was chalk full of both male and female Eastern Bluebirds, some Gold Finches and even a Downy Woodpecker.
I wandered the park a little longer, found an ice rink and a farm and old barns and buildings from seemingly the 1800's, but didn't spot anything more than some House Sparrows on the roof of one of the animal enclosures. It was getting late in the afternoon, I was starting to get a chill and I decided to head back to civilization: The Tim Horton's across the way, with the new lounge and inviting fire place. But first, I thought I'd take one more stab at the Saw-Whet. There was still a cluster of trees I had yet to examine. As I walked up the path a figure emerged from the mist. Are those binoculars around his neck? I told myself not to get too excited, and casually approached the man.
"Hi," I said. "Seen any Owls?"
Yes, he had.
"You've seen the Saw-whet?"
"Today?" I asked, hopefully.
He said he had. He was on his way out. It was late. It was getting cold. But I wanted that owl.
So, I asked if he'd mind showing me the bird. With a shrug, Mark, as he is known to those who know him, took me back to a stand of trees I had yet to examine, past the tree with the strange bits of kleenex tissue tied to the branches, to the very tree where the Northern Saw-Whet Owl stood, motionless, watching us as we watched him. I had to admit a bit of a thrill. Prior to this year, I had not seen an owl anywhere other than in a zoo. Now I had just seen my seventh owl of 2012.
And in case any of you are concerned I might have forgotten, I have ordered my LL Bean Snow Sneakers and they are being shipped to me, even as I type. To give credit where it is due, Sue has a pair and recommended them to me after I came home with my feet half frozen the other night.
And here, for your viewing pleasure is the Eastern Bluebird, along with,(my patience was rewarded), Northern Saw-whet Owl: