Warning…a long blog post!

About a month ago when venturing far off the beaten track(to get a photo of a deserted metal bridge for the 2015 Photo Scavenger Hunt), I came across a very weird event. I have hesitated to blog about it since I am not sure of the outcome….

While taking my photographs of the bridge, I heard some whooshing noises and a flap of large wings and soon noticed something clinging to the cement support of the bridge. I watched whatever it was then drop into the water. I realized it was an owl….possibly a 4-6 month old owlet from early 2015. Or maybe it was full grown..I am not an owl expert! It looked around and drifted around the water for a while and then seemed to get its bearings. The owl then “swam” over to a nearby floating log and tried to climb up onto the log. The attempt was unsuccessful so it kept on swimming and eventually paddled itself over to the river shoreline…where it hopefully managed to pull itself to safety. This whole sequence of events took less than 3-4 minutes from when I first heard/spotted the owl to when it got to the shoreline.

I was quite concerned about the owl since it appeared to be injured or maybe just stunned. I phoned a local wildlife refuge to let them know as soon as I realized what was happening…..they wanted to know if there was somebody nearby with a net that might be able to rescue the owl. Of course there was nobody…and the muddy, slippery riverbank  is extremely steep, the water quite fast-moving with strong currents near the bridge supports. Someone might have been able to get to the river by going down the riverbank cliff but there would have been no way to get back up again! A boat rescue might have been the only option. When I told the wildlife rescue group that the owl looked like it had managed to swim to shore they were happy/relieved about that…so I am hoping that once the owl made it to shore it could recover.

It turned out that there was a second owl that was watching everything from the metal girders under the bridge and I also saw another really big bird..not sure if it was a fully grown owl..or maybe it was a predatory bird that had attacked the owl nest?

Anyway…I hope the owl is okay. I did manage to get some photos and a short video(unfortunately not very good quality..)

Note that for each of  the photographs below you can click on the image to enlarge it and then click again to super-enlarge it.

The bridge I went to photograph is shown here…you can see it is a long ways down to the water level. The edge of the cliff where I was standing is in the bottom right hand corner:view bridge

This next photo shows my first look at something that I didn’t know what it was. Look closely at the “splotch” on the cement support along the large horizontal crack in the back cement support…and also notice the second owl on top of the cement support right at the metal girders(I didn’t actually see this owl till later!):

owl on bridge distance

The owl clinging to the cement on the girder support(a zoom in shot):

cling to wall

Splash into the water, ironically by a wet ‘n wild graffiti:


Drifting in the water, not sure what to do:

now what

floating with the current

Once the owl got its bearings, it started swimming towards a nearby floating log using both wings as paddles:

towards the log

Swimming past the log since it couldn’t climb on to it:just after log

Swimming towards shore:

step 2 closer to shore

The other owl watching the whole scene:

other owlA zoom-in shot of the observer:

other owl closeup

I also managed to film a 6 second video of the owl swimming towards shore. You can watch it here:

If you are interested, there is another video on YouTube of an owl swimming in Lake Michigan last December. Apparently it had been attacked by 2 peregrine falcons and fallen into the lake near the shoreline(people on the beach scared away the falcons). The owl managed to swim to shore safely:

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday here.

Since this blog post involves a pair of owls, an owl up and an owl down, an owl dry and an owl wet, plus numerous other “pairs” I am also linking to Helena’s Pairs here.

24 thoughts on “Owls

  1. An AMAZING post! Wow! Loved your photos of the whole event and the two videos. I would never have believed an owl could swim!!! And I wonder if the owl just put her nest over the water, and then the fledglings had to deal with the wet and wild part to learn to fly. Or maybe your supposition about a predator is correct. So interesting. Remember “Wild Kingdom”? This was like an episode of that old show! 🙂


  2. What am amazing adventure! both for you and the little owl. Of course I hope s/he survived. Well done you for documenting it all and I vote this is the best “Pairs” of the year so far!


  3. wow, I’ve never seen an owl swim before – what a drama to happen upon while out hunting for photos – and dramatic bridge oo


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