The only location in North America that one has a decent chance of hearing and hopefully seeing the fierce Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, a diminutive (6″), diurnal hunter of small mammals and even larger southern invertebrates, is on the privately owned King Ranch at the bottom of Texas. The ranch is physically larger than Rhode Island and despite the fact that naturalists have staked out several nesting areas, success is never guaranteed.
The weather was not flight-friendly Friday night and I missed the last connection to my destination – Harlingen. I landed in Houston at 9:45pm with decisions to make. I absolutely had to be at the Norias Division gates at 6am Saturday or I would miss the special van tour I had reserved months ago. Renting a car and driving 300 miles was looking like my best option until a quick-minded United agent reserved the penultimate seat on a (thankfully) delayed 10:30pm flight to Brownsville. Brownsville is south of Harlingen and a two hour drive to my meeting spot; but at least I would have a chance to search for my “Nemesis” bird.
Of course, this revised itinerary assumed I could rent a car in Brownsville. My recently elevated status to “Hertz Gold” ensured the presence of a rental agent upon my post-closing hour arrival. However, neither Hertz nor its competitors had a single vehicle available to rent! While one side of my brain was rationalizing the expense of a two hour taxi ride, my emotional half took over and blurted out: “I am a professional wildlife photographer and I’ll lose my contract with the King Ranch if I fail to show up”. The sympathetic agent eyed the two carry-on bags weighing me down and promptly released a vehicle from the VIP secret stash.
I have REALLY wanted to see this incredibly difficult to find little owl since the early 1990’s. Many trips to Arizona and Texas produced scores of great birds and memories…but this elusive, dynamo stood out as the only North American owl missing from my life-list. UNTIL YESTERDAY…#697!!!
Beautiful little guy….looks anything but Texan!
Looking forward to our next togetherness..hope all well in yr household, Joe.
Love the story you pitched to the Hertz agent!
3 to go . . .
What’s left on the list to 700 that you have reasonable possibility of finding – seeing?
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Hiya FFEJ. You know I always plan…but much of the fun are surprises that deviate from “the plan”. I want to end STRONG. No more introduced species or “LBJ’s”. So….in May, two days birding in SF with a guide should produce Mountain Quail and Black Rail. But I’m not counting the rail unless I SEE that one. Then to the Pribilofs in Alaska where Red-faced Cormorant and Red-legged Kittiwake are guaranteed. WHITE-TAILED EAGLE is MEGA rare but possible during my four days there (secretly, it is the major reason I’m going)..so I hope the Eagle is #700. I’m partial to raptors, as you know. I could chase Little Gull in the Susquehanna this wkd, or something else in April..but I’m resisting that temptation. Thanks for following….you were a catalyst for this obsession!!!
Congratulations, George!!! Great story. Okay, now come here where we have a real owl, a big one and it’s baby. Three to go!!! Any chance you can get them in Florida? Joe
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While no new birds are likely on yr island of paradise….would love to visit if we could ever match ALL of our schedules. Thanks so much for the invite…I’ll hold you to it!!
What is the owl doing with its wings in the second photo?
Photo taken from behind…wings folded…just looks odd
Congrats George! What an amazing story… and owl!
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Thanks Betsy, glad you’re following.
Very nice! Quite a story.
That’s owl-speak for “nicely done, old boy.”
Aren’t you missing a stop on your Texas trip? Congrats on 697!
Find me a Black Rail in Austin and I’m there! See you at Reunions???
Pretty exciting start to the final 4
You bet Doctah! No “cheapies”…gonna hit some tape-measure shots in final stretch.
Three to go….piece of cake for you. Your excitement is contagious! Proud of you 🙂
CONGRATS! 3 to go to the big seven zero-zero.
Sent from my iPhone KJB
George – amazing story – what a trip – good bird too! PRZ
Great story……wonderful bird.
A beaut there, Woody. (Seeing King Ranch, I’m wondering did you connect in TX via the Vogt boys, in particular Brian?) Watching the weather there (in Arlington) for this afternoon’s opener. Knowing your other passion, you should’ve stayed to root on the Fightin’s. Now THAT would’ve been quite a trip!
They should make a movie about your quest. I’m thinking maybe Steve Martin and Owen Wilson… I love the Hertz story… Quick thinking, combined with desire and desperation = courage! Good luck!
Why not a professional – then take it all off on your income tax stuff. Love from your mother who is getting happier for you. When is the celebration and where do you live now?.
#397 you can do it!!! Brinton
Why do you call this a ânemesisâ bird?
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Impresive accomplishment to get all Owls in N.A.!!!