I have backlogs of bird news to wade through for you, but couldn’t help singling out this spectacular story. There’s nothing earth-shatteringly newsy here, just a rarely seen behavior that was caught on camera. But honestly, it’s probably one of the coolest bird videos of the year.

Steve Spitzer, a photographer well-known in Chicago’s birding community for his light-filled and lively portraits of (usually) shorebirds near his home, was strolling his usual stomping grounds at Loyola Beach on the city’s North Side. He spotted something swimming in Lake Michigan, but it wasn’t a gull or winter duck. Against all odds, this was a Great Horned Owl. (The image above is reproduced with the kind permission of Steve Spitzer.)

Apparently, before his arrival, a pair of marauding Peregrine Falcons had harried the owl so that its only recourse was to drop into the water. And luckily, Spitzer had the presence of mind to not only snap some of his typically wonderful still photos, but to also capture video of this extraordinary event. All is well that ends well, with the owl making it to shore and drying off under the protection of concerned birders until it flew away.

This amazing story has garnered interest from news media across the country as well as birding groups. Audubon has a nice video of the owl doing the breaststroke, along with comments from ornithologists. Meanwhile, local Chicago TV station WGN is showing the aftermath, as a very put-upon and soggy GHO sits harrumphing on the beach.

Spitzer doesn’t have a monopoly on crazy owl-attack captures along Lake Michigan’s Chicago shore. (Witness the stunning shots from a few years ago of a Peregrine dive-bombing a Snowy Owl.) But his wide variety of photos—often of everyday birds—are generally beautiful and well worth the look.

Written by Meredith Mann
The lowly Red-winged Blackbirds in suburban New York triggered Meredith Mann's interest in birds. Five years later, she's explored some of the the USA's coolest hotspots, from Plum Island in Massachusetts to the Magic Hedge in Chicago to the deserts of Fallon, Nevada. She recently migrated from the Windy City (where she proudly served as a Chicago Bird Collision Monitor, rescuing migrants from skyscrapers and sidewalks) to Philadelphia, where she plans to find new editing and writing gigs; keep up her cool-finds chronicle, Blog5B; and discover which cheesesteak really is the best. And she will accept any and all invitations to bird Cape May, NJ.