As the sun sank lower, cars started to arrive at the Liberty Loop parking lot. They pulled in by ones and twos. I had been standing there for hours with my feet ice cold in the snow jawing with some bird photographers. We watched Harriers, Red-tailed and Rough-legged Hawks, a Merlin and loads of Canada Geese and Sparrows. A Barred owl started to inquire about our dinner arrangements.
One of the photographers had been coming to the marsh for weeks and had not seen a Short-eared Owl in all that time. I had not seen one there since mid-December. As people arrived asking about the Owls, we all just shrugged. Many people left, heck, I left. But after a tongue-burning cup of cocoa, I came back to resume the vigil.
Friends of mine from Long Island arrived bubbling with news of having seen Long-eared Owls. As they told there story again and again for new arrivals, I idly scanned the marsh. They must have brought owl luck with them for as the sun inched further in the west and the sky’s pastels turned fiery, a Short-eared Owl rose from the marsh and started to course back and forth. I whirled around shouting at the photographers chatting in the parking lot. “We’ve got owls!” Everyone hustled up to the upper level.
In the end there were 4. The cool thing was that it was light enough that you could easily see the differences between the male and females and tell them apart.