The Elusive Spotted Owl in Tigard

spotted owl, forest, wildlife
Northwest Spotted Owl. Tigard, OR. Photo credit: Elizabeth Woodard

It never ceases to amaze me what thrives within Tigard’s wooded trail systems. During a rare moment in time, my wife Beth and I were walking our dogs on the genesis path that runs parallel to Fonner Street – when we heard the distinct “hooty-hoot” of an owl. At that moment our Irish setter Molly stopped in perfect pointer stance with head drawn upward. We followed in suit and what we saw next was amazing. Not further than 20 feet away, and about the same distance up and off the trail – There it was perched ready for a photo op… a NW spotted owl.

“The Pacific NW is home to old-growth forest filled with a multitude of natural resources. Within the old-growth forests still dwells the elusive spotted owl. It was “more than 20 years ago when the northern spotted owl was listed under the Endangered Species Act as a threatened species in Washington, Oregon, and California. … Today, the spotted owl is stable in a few areas and declining in most others. The two main threats to its survival are habitat loss and competition from the barred owl, a relative from eastern North America that has progressively encroached into the spotted owl’s range.” … www.fws.gov/oregonfwo/species/Data/NorthernSpottedOwl/main.asp

These owls are still a protected class of bird and nearly as hard to come across as a bigfoot. Of course the difference here, no one’s ever captured a Squatch or Yeti to prove their existence. The thing that captured my immediate focus were those menacing black eyes. Childhood memories of tales of the crypt and sleepy hollow immediately came to mind with an owl you don’t cross paths, especially on the eve of Halloween.   

We’ve both seen owls before, but never this close and never a spotted one. In the moment I thought “why I picked today to leave my Nikon camera at home,” I’ll never know. Fortunately, like the speed and precision of Annie Oakley, the famous markswoman who worked with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in the 1880s… Beth drew her weapon of choice – the iPhone.

She shot a perfect picture in seconds and without delay before it took flight. My only regret was not capturing it’s nearly 4-foot wingspan taking flight through the woods on video as it cleared the tree canopy. I’m hopeful there’ll be a next time since it appears likely at least one of these birds may be a seasonal visitor or resident of Tigard’s old-growth forest.

Now go and get your walk on daily to stay fit healthy. And don’t forget to have a camera ready while hiking the great NW… Sasquatch is out there somewhere ;]

Good health to you and your family.