The snow level had dropped enough for me to check an old owl nest last week. I was going to be hiking alone in an area full of bears so my friend Steve suggested I make it a toucan hike. Meaning two cans of bear spray in leu of a partner.
Well I was only twenty minutes in when I heard something heavy running away from me. A few more steps and there was his bed. He went west and I was heading north so I continued on. Another bed laid beside a tree a couple hundred yards upslope. A pair of red tailed hawk sat together on a dead branch. Thereís a nest a few hundred yards west of here every year. As I entered the timber holding the nest, a large marten scurried along a log in front of me. The snow under the thick stand of timber had not melted much, so I was post holing in knee-deep mush. My shoes were soon squishing with every step, but the nest was only another hundred yards up.
I passed by a large doug fir that would serve as a perch tree if the nest is in use. No owl sign anywhere. When I reached a viewpoint for the nest, I wasnít surprised to find it empty. It was last used in 2010. Before that it was occupied in 2005 and 2006. I looked around a bit. Bear scat lay beside a log. I raised my binoculars for one more look. Still empty, but wait. Whatís that moving in the breeze below the nest? An owl feather! I scanned the clump of sticks again. There halfway down the mistletoe I just made out the top of an owl head. A great gray! How about that! Is seems the nest may be deteriorating so the owl had to find a new spot. Hopefully it holds together for one more season.
As I was passing a small pond on my way out, I must admit my mind was more on the nest than where I was walking. So when a goose grunted a few feet away I nearly jumped out of my skin. Then a grouse clucked to my left. They reminded me one shouldnít move through bear country with his mind floating somewhere else. To my left a coyote began barking like a guard dog. Itís a good bet thatís where the grizz is. As I continued down the barking persisted. Even when I reached my car I could still hear the coyote. I feared his den was under attack. A fox moused beside the road on my way home.
Note: As Iím writing this the young moose that was chased by our local grizzly is feeding below the cabin.