Subject: Y2K #001 - NORTHERN HAWK OWL Date: Jan 1 22:07:00 2000 From: Pterodroma at aol.com - Pterodroma at aol.com
Unbelievable! I can scarcely believe that I actually pulled this off!! Meredith and Dave Spencer's 'tweeters' posting of the Chelan Northern Hawk Owl only read for the first time last night, New Year's Eve, couldn't have been better timed. And then, actually seeing THAT very bird this morning, first thing, #1 in the New Year, Century, ...Millennium(!!) couldn't have been better timed or planned either. With the NORTHERN HAWK OWL having been at the top of my Washington State hit list for years, what a symbolic start in 'ticking' that one off right at the very onset at first light on the First Day of the new Millennium!
Already going on 48 hours with virtually no sleep, having unintentionally gotten sucked in by the millennial celebrations around the world (an incredible and uplifting 24 straight hours of TV thanks especially to PBS, CNN, and CBC-Canada) starting off at Kiribati, Tonga, New Zealand, Australia, and following it all on around the world winding up with a comparative low key wounded and humbled Seattle, by the end of which I felt utterly drained, emotionally, mentally, and physically. At 2am when I really should have gone to bed despite feeling utterly exhausted and questioning my sanity, I still managed to summon up already ravaged adrenaline reserves and energy necessary (assisted by two giant cups of coffee for the road and thank God for "Art Bell" on the radio who's guaranteed to keep me awake on the road when music or anything else would have put me into road induced hypnosis or sleep in a heartbeat) to take on the dark snowy unknown of I-90, Snoqualme, and Blewett, and in 4 hours, transport myself to Chelan. The goal was to get there before daylight, scout out and locate the Hawk Owl site *in the dark* and in a place I'd never been before, using only the vague assist from DeLorme and fortunately the adequately detailed directions posted by the Spencer's.
A crazy long shot?!? To some of you, maybe. But with a coveted Hawk Owl at the very cusp of the Millennium at stake, and for which such a Y2K first bird effort-challenge seemed reasonable given the oft observed and cited nature of Hawk Owls for being site specific and often quite standout conspicuous, it was my intention to get there, locate the exact spot in the dark, and then hope and pray that as first light rolled around, I would spot the owl BEFORE any other species might be seen or heard to steal the thunder and snatch up the glory of the day.
And guess what. It worked!! Yahoo!!! Unbelievable. The drive via I-90 Snoqualme / Blewett was utterly traffic free. Zero! No cars, no trucks, just me. An unfamiliar experience for I-90 and a little unnerving in places actually with an inch of unblemished snow cover blanketing the roadway and not even a hint of snow plow in sight. Over in Chelan, and once I found the orange tape marking the spot along Purtteman Gulch Road (not Purtteman Creek Road as indicated DeLorme), I just pulled over and napped away the last hour before first light. At first light when I awoke at 0705hrs, literally instantly before I could even focus my eyes and had my wits together, right there looming overhead through the windshield on the tip top dead branches of a tall Ponderosa Pine overhanging Purtteman Gulch Road was the NORTHERN HAWK OWL! Too perfect! Awesome! It was like a miracle!
I had the owl in continuous view and study for two hours during which time it remained on the east side of the road opposite the orchards on the west. It moved around quite a bit from tree top to tree top with occasional swoops to the ground to capture voles which were then being cached up in one of the Ponderosa Pines. It ranged from the road side to no further than 100 feet back at the very most. A word of caution; unless you've been tracking the movements of the bird, it could otherwise at times be difficult to initially find when perched atop the long-needled tops of the pines where it blends it quite effectively. Just exercise patience and constantly scan the tip tops of the pines. Sooner or later, you should see it. Otherwise, it could just as likely be on the orchard side of the road as well conspicuously perched atop utility poles, wind machines, and probably the bare tree tops in the orchard.
****************************** Specific Directions: From Chelan town center, intersection rts alt.97 / 150 (Saunders St. / Woodin Ave.), take rt.150 following the dog legs exactly through town for 2.1 miles; turn right on Boyd Road; follow Boyd Road for 2.6 miles to Purtteman Gulch Road; turn right on Purtteman and go 1.2 miles to where you should see orange tape on both sides of the road just past conveniently provided by the Spencer's, thank you very much :-)). This is the place, and the owl ranges here between a black mailbox marked "#91 P.G. Rd" on the left and the next house up the road on the right (500 meters or so). ******************************
Phew! What a perfect way to greet the New Year! And it goes even one better. One should start off the new year and Millennium at the very least with a decent breakfast, right? In my rush to hit the road in the wee hours of darkness, all I had quickly on hand were two 12-day old and stale peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the fridge left over from the December 22nd Okanogan Highlands trip. Yuck! Well, low and behold, while standing in the middle of Purtteman Gulch Road with my scope trained on the Hawk Owl, a couple who had just moved to the area from New Hampshire were taking a New Year's morning stroll down the road and came upon the scene. Most cordial, friendly, and fascinated, and particularly astonished to discover a stranger in their midst who'd driven through the night all the way from Seattle based on a single Internet message to seek out and find a single bird out the in middle of nowhere such as here. The crystal clear view through my Leica scope gave them the view of a lifetime of this most distinguished visitor to their neighborhood. Thrilled and thoroughly impressed, I soon found myself dumping the PB&J with a generous invitation up for breakfast. Only moments before, we were total strangers meeting by chance on a cold gray winter's day and moments later, we find ourselves forging friendships with the very real likelihood of welcoming new members to WOS.
Anxious to get back across the pass before the forecast heavy snows set in, I started back just before noon. I chose Steven's for the grandiose wintery scenery rather than the faster Blewett / Snoqualme, probably a mistake in retrospect. It was very slow and the snow was beginning in ernest near the crest continuing on down all the way to past Sulton on the lower west slope. A camper shelled pickup which I was following for some inexplicable reason suddenly lost control on the incline just before the summit, and spun off to the left slamming into an oncoming car from the west. Both vehicles were virtually totaled but fortunately no one was hurt.
Safely back home, I've been asleep for the past several hours, but now up for just long enough to get this report off and posted before retiring back for a long night and many hours more of much needed sleep. Happy New Year and Millennium everyone! Good Luck if you're considering going to Chelan to see the Northern Hawk Owl. It's a pretty easy one and worth the effort. ...And thanks to Meredith and Dave Spencer for the timely initial alert posted to Tweeters!
**************************************************** Richard Rowlett (Pterodroma at aol.com) 47.56N, 122.13W Bellevue (Eastgate), WA, USA
"Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought" --Albert Szent-Gyorgi (1893-1986). ****************************************************