(photo courtesy Gordon Elllmers; click link below to see more photos)
“Everyone ready? I’m going to open the box.”
The Short-eared owl erupted from the carrier and winged rapidly across the snowy expanse in front of us...
I held my breath as he slowed and began gliding back and forth at the far end of the field. He seemed to be orienting himself to the familiar surroundings of the Washington County Grasslands Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Within minutes he flew off into the setting sun.
I looked around at the huge smiles on the faces surrounding me. Most of the trip participants had never seen a Short-eared owl. Not unusual, considering these state endangered owls have almost been extirpated (exterminated) from New York State - and the northeast U.S.
“There are no words,” said an emotional Lehman when asked how it felt to release the now healthy Short-eared owl. “It was just a joy to see him fly, knowing all the work I put in gave him his life back.”
I understood how she felt. Seeing one of only a few dozen owls remaining in the state released back into the wild brought tears to my eyes. It gave me a sense of awe - and a feeling that our struggle to conserve their habitat is worth the sacrifices we're making... READ MORE