Great Gray Owls Take Center Stage In Sunday’s Northland Outdoors

If you’re a fan of great gray owls — and it’s hard to not be fascinated by these magnificent birds from the north — you’re going to want to check out Sunday’s section of Northland Outdoors in the Grand Forks Herald or the photo gallery that will appear on the Herald’s website.

Josh James, a student at the University of Minnesota-Crookston, took this striking close-up photo of a great gray owl recently during an excursion to trap and band the birds near Roseau, Minn.

Tim Driscoll, director of the Grand Forks-based Urban Raptor Research Project, and a group of students from the University of Minnesota-Crookston made half a dozen trips to northwest Minnesota this winter to capture and band great gray owls.

Driscoll also teaches a course in raptor ecology at UMC.

The owls, which normally spend their winters in Canada, converged on northwest Minnesota in big bunches this winter after their food supplies ran low farther north. This “irruption,” as it’s known in scientific terms, occurs every few years.

The influx of owls provided an opportunity for Driscoll, who has a federal permit to trap and band owls and other raptors, and his students to catch and band several great grays, along with two northern hawk owls, at a site north of Roseau, Minn., that is a traditional hotspot for the birds, especially during irruptive years such as this.

The banding work also allowed the students to take up-close-and-personal photos of the owls — an opportunity most photographers rarely get — and Driscoll’s students generously agreed to share several of their images with the Herald.

Here’s just one of the photos you’ll see in Sunday’s two-page spread on the owls.