Posted by: atowhee | August 28, 2021


THE FEATHERED HALF DOME, photo by Albert Ryckman:

After reviewing his many images Albert realized he caught the bird as it launched into flight, just before it vanished from our view. Sayonara, Strix!

Through some forfuitous connections I got invited to visit a private ranch at about 1450′ elevation in the McKenzie River Valley upstream from Eugene. Three other birders came along. The family of people living there has been seeing a GGO family of five: mom, dad, three owlets nearly full size. There is a meadow of about double football-field size, surrounded on 3 sides by century old forest with dense canopy. Plenty of rodents in the meadow–ideal set up for our Great Gray friends. Not only did we see the male adult owl, we heard a pygmy-owl, or two, calling…and then another favorite of mine flew over–a Common Nighthawk.* The male owl kept to a single visible perch for about a half-hour then flew along the ground and vanished back into the forest. Apparently he heard no prey so the family went off to another meadow.

This is what our view across the meadow looked like without optics. Can you spot the owl? He’s there…

OK, HERE ARE SOME REAL PHOTOS, taken today by Albert Ryckman:

Here’s relevant email I got about this sighting: “I just thought I would let you know that Great Gray Owls have been breeding in the McKenzie Bridge area (mostly upstream from town) since at least 1990.  Back in those days they hunted in “shelterwood cuts” and nested in the forests near the cuts. –Tom Mickel”

The ranch owners have lived here over thirty years and this is their first GGO family. I suspect the owls moved here because so much of the area burned last September. Upstream from Leaburg Dam the roadside is a devastation mural. Many lots now contain burned trees and little else. I counted six stand-alone chimneys that once warmed homes. Those homes were over-heated, trashed and ashed. THerre are mailboxes for houses that vanished. A gas station price sign stands next to a small patch of cement, Many occupied lots now have mobile homes or tents only. There were over a dozen for sale signs, many for lots with no structures. Stacks of charred logs now line the highway. We are told the burned trees provide marketable wood for up to eighteen months after the fire. Next week is the one year anniversary of that wildfire. The ranch where we were had not burned and the owners had not evacuated.

The deer and Wild Turkeys on this ranch were nonchalant about the large, sluggish bipeds. They would amble past, barely willing to go around us. We heard the Pileated first, then came an unsatisfactory glance as it flew into a tree.
Other critters included western gray squirrelm a chipmunk, western fence lizard, red-legged frog and a ranch dog that eats blueberries faster than I could pick them.

Ranch–private, Lane, Oregon, US–Near McKenzie Bridge
Aug 28, 2021
17 species

Wild Turkey  15
Band-tailed Pigeon  3
Mourning Dove 2
Common Nighthawk  1
Turkey Vulture  1
Northern Pygmy-Owl  2
Great Gray Owl  1     There is a family on this property–nesting at 1500′ elevation or lower. There are few places in the lower forty-eight states where the GGO is known to currently nest at this low elevation.
Red-breasted Sapsucker  1
Pileated Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  1
Steller’s Jay  6
Common Raven  X
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  X
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
Brown Creeper  1
American Robin  1
Dark-eyed Junco  4

*If you wonder why I admre these birds so much find a copy of the book, EDGE OF AWE, and read my essay on the nighthawks at Malheur.


  1. Harry Thanks for inviting me to join the expedition. Here are my favorite 4 images.


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