Fellow birder/photographer and good friend, Tom Starcic wanted to see and photograph the Spotted Owls at Placerita so we arranged to meet there at 9 am Wednesday, June 4th. Looking out my window, I noticed the overcast skies. Then after I drove my wife to her office, there was even a slight drizzle. Quickly, I signed on to my email account to check if Tom changed his mind because of the inclement weather. Nothing. We're good to go, I told myself.
Driving up to Placerita, I prepared myself to just seeing the owls since photography would definitely be out of the question in this condition. As I approached the Freeway 14 junction, lo and behold, the sun was out!
Tom arrived just a whisker after 9 am. On our trek to the waterfalls, which I described to Tom as going to be "arduous", we encountered only a few birds. The scads of Black-headed Grosbeaks that used to make the hillside come alive were now conspicuously absent. As we hit the waterfall trail an American Robin "led" us part of the way, every so often looking back at us as if to say, "Hurry up, you oldtimers!"
And then we were there. Papa owl was as usual sleeping on a branch not that high up. Occasionally it would wake up and give us a look that I can only describe as exasperated. High above him, Mama owl was herself off to slumberland and was totally unaffected by all the commotion below.
Suddenly I heard a "hey". "Did you hear that?", I asked Tom. "Is that a bird?" Before Tom could answer, a couple of guys sitting on the path ahead (and not in our direct line of vision) gave us a wave. We waved back and I asked them if they saw the baby owl. "Right there in front of us", Fred, one the guys replied. When we asked them if they saw the papa owl, they said no. So we eagerly pointed to them the branch where owl senior was perched. We quickly changed places, (not easy - the trail being narrow, steep and peppered with poison oaks) so Tom and I can photograph the baby.
After an hour, we proceeded to the main park where the lack of birds was quite unexpected and disappointing.
"Where are the flycatchers?" I asked. "A week ago, they were everywhere!"
"It's ok", Tom said as we were saying our goodbyes, "we saw what we came here for."
Indeed we did.