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.
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