Submitted by Talkin’ Birds Ambassador Peggy Page
I've been a serious (that is, “addicted!”") birder for almost 40 years, but the birds never stop surprising and delighting me. In 2017, I spent three months traveling around the US trying to fill in some of the gaps in my North American list, which is pretty respectable but was missing some birds I really wanted to see. One was the Northern Pygmy Owl. I had lived in the Bay Area for several years in the 90's and frequently prowled the Sunol Regional Wilderness park where this sneaky little guy allegedly breeds, but never was able to see - or even hear - one. It was at the top of my “Fill in the Gaps” wish list, but I had little hope. After all, it was (along with its sneaky little buddy, the Northern Saw Whet) a nemesis bird.
In June, 2017 I returned to Sunol Wilderness with no thought at all of seeing the Pygmy Owl. In fact, I was looking for Yellow-billed Magpies to pad my year list. As I walked along the hot and sunny main road, I heard a hissing sound from a live oak tree right over my shoulder. Deciding it was only a bushtit, I almost didn't turn around. But some wonderful hunch convinced me to do just that - and there, only feet away, was an adult Northern Pygmy Owl feeding two almost-fledged, fluffy, and adorable youngsters. The hiss I had heard was one of the kids insisting on his share of the mouse the adult was shredding. i watched for ten minutes, frozen in the best kind of shock and awe.
Who needs a camera? That magical encounter is seared into my memory! The wonderful thing about birds? They never run out of ways to thrill and transport us!