Flammulated Owls, Great Grays and Poorwills, a great way to spend a birthday.

Young Birder Bridget and I decided at the spur of the moment to head up to the interior for a girl's weekend away. She got some great lifers and we had an amazing time.

Bridget ended up getting a lifer Canyon Wren, Flammulated Owl and Boreal Chickadee. She also got a BC bird which was a Veery. It was really cool to see the Veery feeding young as well.

We went poorwilling one night and found 10 Common Poorwills. I finally got a semi decent shot of one of these guys. Night photography and I don't meld well. Shortly after taking this photo I heard the call of a Flammulated Owl. Bridget didn't hear the low hoots right away but eventually she did. She thought the owl sounded far but I explained to her that Flams tend to throw their voices. They can appear really close when they are far away and be really close when they sound far. We ended up getting fabulous views of this  Flammulated Owl but at that point it was too dark for my photographic skill level. For the Poorwill photo I used my car headlights but for the Flammulated Owl I would of had to have held the flashlight and the camera at the same time and that just wasn't going to happen! Since it was a lifer for Bridget I held the light while she took the photos. It was fun to hear her squeals of delight and to see her so happy and I was in awe as well. It was a special moment just to watch that cryptic tiny owl in the open. It perched and called and then actively hunted for bugs. Since I rarely see them in the open it is always impressive to see just how tiny they actually are. Some of the bats looked about the same size! If you didn't note the flight pattern you could confuse the two! It is extremely late in the year for them to be calling. They usually stop calling around the first week of July and they rarely come out in the open like this and sit and stare at you on a visible perch. It was almost as if the owl came out just for us. It was like magic and a great way to celebrate my upcoming birthday which was 30 mins away on the next day. It certainly is a memory I won't soon forget.

The Poorwills were eating all the bugs that were about and biting us, so we loved them even more. It's pretty cool to see them open up their large mouths and eat like frogs. They are just such cool nocturnal birds to watch! I just love nightjars. Bats were flying overhead, as well as some Common Nighthawks. The cool thing about Common Poorwills is that they are similar to owls. This is not because they are nocturnal but because they eject pellets just like them.

My first decent Common Poorwill shot.

While hiking around we encountered a family of Great Gray Owls. Bridget had bought me a book about Alpine Flowers for my birthday. I'm always telling the kids on our trips that I want to learn those flowers so thanks again Bridget. Well I started to use it during this trip while looking for some Boreal birds. Alpine flowers are so beautiful it will be nice to actually know what I'm looking at.

While looking at the owls I decided to focus in on one of the gangly teenagers. While photographing this owl and looking for a calling Williamson's Sapsucker a friendly firefighter told us we had to leave because the trail was closed due to the wildfires. It was tinder dry and they didn't want to take any chances. He walked up the trail to find us because he saw my car below. He had just finished putting up notices at the base of the trail while we were in there. I am sure grateful for all the hard work these men and women are doing to fight the intense fires across the province right now. So many have been devastated by it unfortunately.

I love the fabulous face of this gangly teenager below. Soon he will grow into his large facial disc and bowtie when he is a full adult.  The habitat of these owls is constantly under threat from logging. They need dead and live trees for nesting, leaning roosting trees for juvies and thick canopy cover to protect young. Great Grays also need perches in clearcuts to hunt. Like other owls, climate change, car crashes from regular hunting and from baiting, rat poison and also agriculture are other threats to this impressive and stoic owl.  These guys sit so still and rarely make any noise that you can walk right by them. In fact, we did just that, until he made a begging call. Even if they are the largest owl by length, they can blend into a tree trunk and their surroundings surprisingly well. This of course comes in handy when they are hunting for prey. He really had a fabulous face and his eyes just go right through you with his stare. It is always cool to get direct eye to eye contact with one of these beautiful owls.

Immature Great Gray Owl

I got to introduce Bridget to a few of my friends during this trip as well and it was great to spend time with them as always. She made me so proud with her sharp eyes and impressive skill. Actually, while back in Vancouver today and looking at the Black Phoebe (which was BC Bird 410 for me) alongside Bridget and others, I ran into my friend Tom Plath. He said I better watch out for this one, as she will be my competition soon (referring to my BC list). She already is and I couldn't be happier for someone to overtake me than her, she is passionate about women in birding, conservation and the ethical viewing of birds. She also has exceptional identification skills and finds great and rare birds. These are all excellent qualities for a great birder. The future looks brighter with kids like this in it! I'm glad birding communities across North America are now celebrating these kids more and more with new programs because they are the stewards for our future and a vital part of our community.


  1. Such a great weekend we had! Awesome shots of both the poorwill and Great Grey, I'm so glad you got the poorwill shot you had hoped for!

    1. Thanks b and glad you got the flam photo too! Here's to many more adventures we will have!

  2. that is so cool Mel. I would love to see a Common poorwill and especially a flammulated owl. I also would enjoy seeing a great gray owl again I haven't seen one since the sfu bird. it's a testament to your persistance, knowledge and respect of the birds that they let you get so close and look so calm. you deserve every good thing you get mel. you work hard for everyone and we all appreciate it. great that you and bridget got to experience that magic moment!

  3. This sounds amazing, where in the interior did you go?

    1. Thanks it was we went to several spots from Merritt to rock creek! We covered a lot of the interior lol.

  4. wish i spent my bday that way. best poorwill shot i've seen mel. lucky you on seeing a flammulated owl i've never seen one.


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