Smith's Longspur? 5 Short-eared Owls

Richard Tafel rtafel at
Sun Feb 10 21:11:11 EST 2002

So - there we were. Watching intently near the red, gas pipes at the special
field for this amazing bird from the far north-west, and a little bird
popped out of nowhere on the adjacent, frozen creek edge. Our bird? Yes?..
No,  - a, - - a Savannah Sparrow.
    But, wait, just under the valves, three small birds. Surely, one of them
will be the target bird. They are at exactly the spot last mentioned as its
location. Two were pretty - - - Horned Larks. The other? - Look closely
through your scope... sparrow-like back; breast stripes, leading to a dark
patch - a..... Song Sparrow.
    We had now been watching for one and a half hours, Saturday morning -
after searching diligently, but  unsuccessfully  all the previous afternoon
(with many others). Fourteen other cars were lined along the number two
line,  all passengers looking intently, many stalking across that special
field, just as we had. But, nothing new - but hawks.
    We had driven all the way down from North Bay, to catch this lifer -
this winter bird of 2002; 5 interesting Short-eared Owls had pleased us
to-wards dusk on Friday, just up that same road. However, it was the
longspur that had lured us south in the middle of winter.
    But - it was time to go. We called out loudly - "Goodbye bird", then
went up the road - and .. slowly back - feeling that the bird would believe
we had gone and then show up (having been tricked by our outward
representation) - but, - nothing.
    Sadly, at 9:15 A.M. we had to leave this windy area - duty calling us
back north. 
    Then - almost hesitantly, after we got  home, we looked up our
"Ontbirds" e-mail messages; - and with a noticeable gasp - there it was - at
10:00 A.M., less than one hour after our departure, and for two further
hours the Smith's Longspur had been easily spotted, just in that selfsame
field that we had so much pored over for the previous 7 daylight hours.
   I ask you - what kind of hospitality is that? When we had all those Great
Gray Owls and Northern Hawk Owls that brought so many of you north last
winter - were they readily spotted by one and all?  Yes!
    I feel that we should not even mention the Northern Hawk Owl which has
been easily spotable along the wires adjacent to our main shopping centre,
for the past couple of weeks, or the tiny Saw-whet Owl so beautifully
displaying itself at a nearby feeder, for the past week or so.
    So - next time you southern birders - please keep your spotters present
for 24 hours, or place a ribbon on the bird's tail - if you are going to
lure us from such distances, for such interesting birds. Or we won't feel we
can reciprocate when that next Boreal Owl, or Ross's Gull or whatever, turns
up in our area. 
    It is just not fair!
                            Dick Tafel,  North Bay.

Richard Tafel <rtafel at>

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