Bird of Dreams

Hawk Owl

The odd character

by Vincent van der Spek at the Gullfest, in Arctic Norway, April 2012

Pine Grosbeaks within touching distance after a hilarious dog sledge ride, flocks of King Eiders in all plumages and ages, Steller’s Eiders from the hotel window, the view on (and sound of) ten thousands of seabirds, up close and personal with a Tengmalm’s Owl… What possibly can I claim to be my bird of the trip?

Martin already picked out Tengmalm’s Owl, Tristan Reid Steller’s Eider. Thanks guys, that makes life (slightly) easier!

As in Tristan’s story, there’s a bird that regularly appears in my dreams (day or night) since my early childhood.

A mad twitch in Holland on a Monday afternoon in October 2005 included a car with three people that run away from their offices without notifying anybody – let alone their bosses. We had brilliant views. Yes, Hawk Owl was every bit as good as expected. Gone next day. Still the only twitchable in Holland ever. T-shirts (“Ladies and gentlemen – we’ve got him!”) and even tattoos were made after that twitch.

Hawk Owl still appeared in my dreams. During GullFest I was not to be disappointed. That very first found by Nils “wingformula” van Duijvendijk in Pasvik (and that reindeer trick pulled by Martin) was just the beginning.

There was that very distant one brilliantly found by Seamus (the birder that found a new species for science!); and that bird calling from inside a nest box; and what about that brilliant day along Tana river, where everybody saw six different birds and the group total for the day was an astonishing eight? One of these birds was even singing and another was caught red handed catching a vole!

 

So what’s so special about it? Well, it’s a species full of surprises! Actually it’s a rather odd case amongst the owls. For starters, the zebra plumage is almost as unique as it is striking.

A tail that long is unheard of amongst owls.


And then there’s the partly diurnal habits. Not unique, but not common amongst owls either.

What I find most striking, however, are the feeding habits. Instead of swallowing their prey whole, Hawk Owl plucks it, like a raptor! I managed to capture this on video near Vadsö.

I rest my case.

And after this trip? Well, they still appear in my dreams.

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