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Northern hawk-owl (Surnia ulula) Almunge, Sweden. Nov 5th, 2019 Fall,Geotagged,Northern hawk-owl,Surnia ulula,Sweden Click/tap to enlarge Country intro

Northern hawk-owl (Surnia ulula)

Almunge, Sweden. Nov 5th, 2019

    comments (1)

  1. Ahhhhhhhh!
    One of my main hopes for this trip was to find a northern hawk-owl, one of the most emblematic birds of the boreal forests, which I'd been dreaming about for as long as I can remember. In the winter, birds are often spotted around Uppsala, so I assigned 2 whole days on my itinerary for the search.
    Fortunately, Swedish birders report their sightings on an excellent webpage, which allowed me to know that at least 5 birds had been seen yesterday.
    So, setting out at 6:30 this morning, I spent all day visiting 3 of these sites, and finding absolutely nothing over these 8 hours. As my last chance, I headed back west, racing with the sinking sun. I got back to the first site at 15:45, at which point the sun had already disappeared below the horizon.
    BUT, as I passed the last corner on this tiny farm road, I saw a dark, chunky silhouette up in a tree by the road. Now, I'd already had multiple false alarms with jays and jackdaws. But, as often happens in situations like this, I knew I finally had it before even raising up my binoculars. And indeed, when she turned to look at me, I saw that impossibly square face.
    My heart pounding, I took a few shaky, rubbish photos, and then watched it take off... Noooo!
    In a daze, I was able to park and get out of the car. I looked out and after a breathless moment that seemed an eternity, I saw her come up and perch in a tree maybe 100 meters off. But soon, she was flying over the field and perched back in the same tree!
    This was clearly her favorite spot, from which she would fly out, hover over the field, like a remarkable cross between a sparrowhawk and a kestrel, and finally swoop down, coming back up with a mouse nearly every time (notice she's holding one in the photo!)
    I hadn't taken my coat or my gloves in my rush to get out, but there was no way I was heading back now, and in the excitement, I barely felt the cold anyway. I walked a bit further up the road, and ran into Susanne, the local birder who had already reported this bird the day before! So I was able to thank her profusely for her awesome (albeit unintentional) early birthday present. As we were speaking, the owl suddenly flew up and perched in a lower shrub not 10 meters from us! She was so completely engrossed in her hunt that she paid us no mind. At some point, the local farmer even came up the road, calling out to his shepherd dog as it was bringing up some twenty sheep to a nearby fenced field! But even that didn't phase the owl, and we were able to watch this incredibly beautiful creature until it was almost completely dark. I finally headed back to my car, now well and truly frozen, but as I drove away, I went past that same low shrub where she had perched again. I watched her silhouette, mesmerized, reluctant to leave. But I turned my head for a second, and when I looked again, she had vanished, gone for the last time into the night.
    Posted 6 months ago

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The northern hawk-owl is a medium sized true owl of the northern latitudes. It is non-migratory and usually stays within its breeding range, though it sometimes irrupts southward. It is one of the few owls that is neither nocturnal nor crepuscular, being active only during the day.

Similar species: Owls
Species identified by Thibaud Aronson
View Thibaud Aronson's profile

By Thibaud Aronson

All rights reserved
Uploaded Nov 5, 2019. Captured Nov 5, 2019 16:04 in ALMUNGE-HAGBY 320, 740 10 Almunge, Sweden.
  • Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • f/8.0
  • 1/49s
  • ISO5000
  • 560mm