Never relax around owls

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    Strix uralensis - Ural owl - длиннохвостая неясыть
    Академгородок, Пироговский бор

    We went for a walk in our pine forest today - just casually - and on the way back decided to check whether there were owls in the owl house this year.

    I came to the big tree where the owl house was, and there was no sight of the owls. I walked around for a while (during my previous visits last year the owls would let me know of their presence by flying from tree to tree at some distance).

    No owls. I had my new toy with me, a bb gun, and I fired it into the trunk well below the owlhouse once, hoping that the knocking sound would attract the owls if there were any owls there at all (my ornithologist friends use a slingshot for the same purpose - "Knock-knock!"). Nope, no effect. I then came closer and sat down about 10 m away from the tree to mount my tele-lens to have a closer look at the house.

    That's when I got owled.

    It could be the owl-related concussion (it hit me really hard!) but I find the whole thing totally hilarious ))))) and I feel genuinely sorry for the poor owl. It must've been so scared for its chicks to decide to attack me from behind without any warning (no flyovers or clicking), and while I was still on the ground, at least 15 m away from the nest (which was about 7-10 m up in the tree).

    Here's yours truly, having stopped and wiped off most of the blood.... (petrified mom took the pictures).

    * * *
    here's a fun website, very related: owltheory.blog.lemonde.fr/

    erminio ferrari, esta_ahi, and 14 other people added this photo to their favorites.

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    1. hellotim80 33 months ago | reply

      oh and you have thankfully retained your good looks

    2. E.Kopyszew 33 months ago | reply

      зверь сова!

    3. rockwolf 33 months ago | reply

      Flippin 'eck!!!!! That's extraordinary!!! Hope it heals quickly!
      Such a beautiful owl though and a superb shot! (Love your earrings! :-))

    4. erminio ferrari 33 months ago | reply

      Mi spiace per l'aggressione da te subita...ma è stata legittima difesa.
      Bellissimo il gufo (ma forse è un allocco?) e molto bella la foto.

    5. annkelliott 33 months ago | reply

      You are kidding, Tatiana! That was not a good experience for you, but I don't blame the owl one bit! Poor thing, especially if she had owlets to protect. I have heard that you get the very occasional person here who will tap/bang on a tree below a nest. Very much frowned upon. Lovely photo of the beautiful owl, though, and so nice to "see" the person who has been so helpful many times on various IDs. Very nice photos of you.

    6. ressaure 33 months ago | reply

      Haha, thanks, Tim, it's the gory goatee that makes me so pretty! lol

      I totally agree that the owl had every right to turn me into ground meat :D

      It's just that there were literally no usual signs of owl activity near the tree and surrounding trees, no visible droppings or pellets (I now think that's probably because the forest floor is so ruffled during the drought, but as I said I didn't even approach the trunk closely). Having waited for a while, I thought I'd knock and ask if anybody was home at all...

      A friend says that the owl could have punctured my stupid skull easily (that would be well deserved!). I got away with a bruise and several puncture wounds in my temple and behind my ear.

      I have a crawling suspicion that the owl was so straightforward because the nest had been visited by the local ornithologists just recently – they build these owl houses and check them every year to count owlets. The Ural owl is a Red list species here - many locals have never seen an owl - that's why all owls living in suburban areas are closely monitored. When the ornithologists check the houses, they wear motorcycle helmets and thick jackets (and the owls attack them the whole time they're up in the tree counting and ringing the chicks).

      It's still interesting because (as seen on the map) the nest is technically in an urban forest, maybe 50 m away from a busy trail, and there are a lot of people there walking, jogging, looking for mushrooms, walking their dogs etc, so these owls are used to seeing humans and I'd at least expect a threatening “intro” ( I was at some distance from the trunk when the owl clawed me).

      I put a very approximate location on the map because should the exact location become known to the public here, human visitors wouldn't resort to taking pictures and kicking and knocking on the tree trunk – the price of a stuffed owl equals several average salaries (and every owner of a cheap bar, sauna or gun shop wants one) and I've seen quite a few ads by people wanting to buy a pet owl (damn you, Harry Potter...).

    7. annkelliott 33 months ago | reply

      A very interesting read, Tatiana. I carefully don't put the locations of any owls on my map, mainly so that hopefully they won't be totally stressed out by endless hordes of birders and photographers. As it is, there are still more than enough people who do go to see various owls. Some photographers just have to get up close in the face of a bird, sometimes making it stretch its wings in defensive mode, just so that the person can get "the" shot. I reckon that no photo is ever worth stressing out a bird.

    8. Rainbirder 33 months ago | reply

      Interesting story!

      In the UK many years ago a famous bird photography (Eric Hosking) lost an eye after being attacked by a Tawny Owl near its nest.

    9. CodyJSpencer 33 months ago | reply

      Wow! What an encounter! Hope you're alright!

    10. Alexander Viduetsky 33 months ago | reply

      Very interesting and unusual experience!
      Great photos and I'm glad that everyone is OK now.

    11. esta_ahi 33 months ago | reply

      in Explore
      on June 6th, 2012:
      #356 Never relax around owls
      By ressaure

    12. Billy Lindblom 33 months ago | reply

      I hope I also finde one of thos owls sometime! I know that speice is extra defensive. In swedish they are named Punching owl.

      Diffrent experience, and nice series of shots from the happening, hehe. :)

    13. Rhettwp 33 months ago | reply

      Sorry about the Owling. Owls can be tough. But I love them. The owl pic is dark and brooding. Wonderful dark tones. Makes the owl seem all the more mysterious.

    14. BlueisCoool 33 months ago | reply

      Very nice work - congrats on being explored !

    15. Pasi Parkkinen 33 months ago | reply

      Yep, they're pretty dangerous - luckily she didn't hit your eyes!

    16. kjbeath 33 months ago | reply

      At least you got a photo, and are OK. Makes you wonder about the risk with larger owls. We have Powerful Owls in Australia which are about 50% larger.

    17. Gregg White 33 months ago | reply

      Great documentation.......let this be a lesson to us all when it comes to any sort of Owl photo. Only superficial wounds so I am sure you are ok now, but I'm sure at the time it most certainly would have got the heart racing! :)

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