This is some of the video of the Great Gray Owl I was able to phonescope through my spotting scope.Posted by Gary Bloomfield on Friday, January 22, 2016
Being that the weekend is upon us, and I know of a lot of birders traveling up to Humboldt to see the Great Gray Owl at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, I thought I would mention some suggested guidelines for viewing the bird and give some directions to it for people to reference.
Directions: Take Highway 101 north of Orick to the Newton B. Drury Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park exit. Drive under the overpass towards the park and very shortly you will come to the large meadow/prairie on your left where the bird is mostly hanging out. Park basically anywhere where there is obvious space along the road (LOTS OF SPACE FOR PARKING) and be sure to make sure you are not parking on dirt along the parkway. Some park rangers have had to ask people to move their vehicles so they aren't parked on grass or dirt.
Once parked look all around the meadow for the bird and if you arrive later in the morning or afternoon just look for the cluster of birders pointed all pointed in the same direction. The bird has been on both sides of the road but mostly spends most of it's time in the southern half of the meadow/prairie (Elk Prairie is the official name, btw). The bird has also been seen a lot right along the road perching on fenceposts and also east of the road perching in short redwoods and some low branches in larger redwoods right along the edge of the meadow.
The bird has been very accomodating. Nonetheless I think it's still important to suggest some guideline helpful for viewing the bird while not disturbing it or stressing it out in any way.
1) Give the bird space. If you give it time and have patience it will come towards you. Give it a lot of respect and don't crowd it. (Nobody has really done this yet, btw, from what I've heard). With patience and time you will get killer photos of this bird as it is SOOOOO obliging and easily observed and will at times get within just FEET of people. Please just let it do that on its own
2) I'd suggest just staying on either the road or on the trails that surround the prairie. The meadow is where this owls food is (voles mostly, I guess) so please consider staying out of the meadow to get closer looks at the bird. So, please stay on the trails and on the road side of the fencing that surrounds the meadow/prairie.
3)Try and be as quiet as possible. I think most people are keeping their voice to a minimum but remember that the owl is hunting its prey mostly by sound.
4) If you happen to see any birders/photographers getting uncomfortably close to the bird please speak up to that person and just let them know in a nice way to maybe back off a little bit. Be considerate about it.
5) Lastly, I don't think anybody would do this — especially since it is a public location within a well-traveled state park — but please don't consider baiting the owl with mice or any other critters. This type of behavior has happened in other locations with owls it and reflects badly on the people taking part in this behavior (mostly photographers). Only trained biologists should ever try and "mouse an owl" in (e.g., Spotted Owl biologists).
It sounds like everybody that has seen this bird thus far has reported pretty positive experiences with it. With the flood of visitors that will surely be coming up this weekend I just wanted to give a couple of suggestions for making the best of your Humboldt Great Gray Owl experience while also being sure to respect the bird and other birders and photographers that will be present.
Good luck and greatly enjoy this mythical bird!