Face to Face with an Endangered Species

Listening to birds is one of the things I love about being outdoors, especially when I’m hiking alone. In spring, the avian chorus is at its peak during nesting season. On a morning hike in May, I had just passed the boundary of Muir Woods National Monument and entered Mt. Tamalpais State Park when the change in the sounds of the birds got my attention.

Up ahead, multiple birds were vocal, but these weren’t their lyrical springtime songs. I was hearing alarm calls. I walked a few steps further and looked up to see what was causing the fuss.

And there perched on a tree only a few feet from the trail was a northern spotted owl.

I stopped, thinking my presence and movement might startle her, wishing her to stay. If I could have held my breath, I would have. She looked down at me. And stayed. I was awestruck.

Northern spotted owl 5-2014

Getting this close to a rare wild animal touches a part of me that is wordless. I think that’s why it has taken me months to write about the experience.

When it was clear that the owl was more concerned about the songbirds dive-bombing her than she was about me, I pulled out my camera. It was new and I didn’t yet know how to work the settings so the photo isn’t sharp. But having this image brings alive the wonder I felt when for a few minutes, my life intersected with a northern spotted owl.


  1. I love owls. There’s a line in a poem about owls.
    “When you can’t sleep, go talk
    to the owls, and listen
    for they will answer.”
    My experience is that they do. xo

  2. A very nice story! The pic might never make the cover of Nat Geo but it captures the feeling and the moment perfectly! Thank you for this!

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