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  Field Notes From
Great Gray Owls

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From Author

Lynne Warren

Great Gray Owls On Assignment

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From Photographer

Daniel J. Cox

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Rebecca Hale (top) and Daniel J. Cox


Great Gray Owls On Assignment Author Great Gray Owls On Assignment Author
Great Gray Owls

Field Notes From Author
Lynne Warren

Best Worst Quirkiest
    I imagine a lot of folks assume that those of us who work for National Geographic get really blasé about seeing wild animals in their natural habitats. But it hasn't happened to me in nearly a decade, and I doubt it ever will. The best thing about this trip was the critters. I got to see a young black bear, a herd of buffalo, hawks, eagles, ducks, woodpeckers, sapsuckers, magpies, a truly adorable coyote pup, a muskrat, and a tree full of red squirrel babies. And owls too. Some of the animals hung around long enough for me to sit quietly and observe them. Others appeared and disappeared in just moments. But every one was a thrill.

    Photographer Dan Cox and I spent a lot of time driving back and forth between the Owl Research Institute in Charlo, Montana, and a wooded area near Flathead Lake where a pair of owls were nesting. The road that runs from Missoula, north through Charlo and past Flathead Lake toward Kalispell, is an absolute nightmare: Two-way traffic running at 60 to 80 miles an hour (100 to 130 kilometers an hour) on two lanes, with no median, no shoulders, and eight-to twelve-feet-deep (two-to-four-meters-deep) ditches on either side of the road intended to help keep wildlife from wandering into traffic. There's nowhere to go to avoid an accident on that road; if anything happens, you're just doomed. In the daytime, with good visibility, it wasn't quite as scary, but I found driving at night a real white-knuckle terror.

    Denver Holt, the founder and president of the Owl Research Institute (ORI), is an incredibly generous guy. He put me up in the Writer's Cabin, a delightful little building that sits right next to a pond and has huge windows looking out on the Mission Range. Every owl resource you could possibly need is there:  species descriptions, prints from scientific journals, and book after book after book about owls. It's an amazingly deep and intellectually valuable assemblage of materials. But there's another side to the ORI collection: the owl tchotchkes, owl doodads, owl whatnots, owl thingamabobs, owl carvings, stuffed toy owls, owl paintings, owl drawings, owls in every imaginable form and material, from fine art to funny. Denver's been working on owls for a long time, and he's a marvelously warm, outgoing person, so he has lots of friends. And they've given him lots of presents. Owl presents. They're everywhere. Being at ORI is a total-immersion owl experience.


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