MMM: The Owl Tree of Pheasant Branch Park

Mostly Madison Mondays – a howdoyoudo from my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin

Saturday I went to my second favorite local park, Pheasant Branch, to just be alone.  Pheasant Branch is second to Owen Park only because Owen is in my backyard and I enjoy lazy the most.  I did hope to spot a bird or two so I brought my camera.  It was a lovely morning because 1) it was above freezing and 2) the sun was shining.  I think that was the sun.  Everyone in Middleton must have thought so too because the park was packed with people like me only each with his own large, pure-bred, perfectly groomed dog.  Dogs are to birding what kids are to birding so I settled on just being content in the fresh air, snap-less.  Right after entering though, a man (with dog) noticed my camera and asked if I was an astronomer – I kid you not – to which I chuckled and before I knew what was happening replied, “Nope.  A birder.”

Just like that. I said it.

There is something about my camera and birds.  I used to think of birding as a hobby of the retired, but now I see it more like snorting a line off a hooker’s ass – something you just can’t do with kids around, and goddamnit, that’s appealing.  So now if I have an opportunity to disappear for a while that usually means I’m off birding.  This is also a function of blooming where I am planted; if I had a child-free hour and was still living in New York I would not be heading to the wilds of Central Park (though I understand hookers are there too).

This kind stranger with dog directed me to “The Owl Tree” and sure enough when I arrived there was a Great Horned Owl perched in the broken pine.


Someone else told me there is an owl (this owl?) in that tree 75% of the time.  His/her nest is right by the pine but I did not spy any babes.  Possibly too early in the season.


I desperately wanted to get closer but felt with so many eyes upon me this was not the time to go off-trail.  I feared a birder’s banishment.  Just then I heard and saw three cranes overhead and watched them start to land further afield.  I decided to come back to the owl.  Maybe everyone would go home to feed their dogs by then.

I fully expected to find the cranes on a pond but was amused to find them instead on the Middleton High School Athletic fields.


Crane Crane

"Look!  I'm a Turkey!"

“Look at me! I’m a Turkey!”



"Mom?" "MOM?"

“Mom?” “MOM?”


The cranes, which I believe are Sandhill Cranes, had had enough of my chase.  I should mention that there’s nothing “birder” about my outerwear – the only environment in which I’d blend is a 1980s Bangles music video.

Freitag Owl

The cranes were done with this garish human pursuing them.  They departed and it was lovely to see them go.

_MG_4883 _MG_4884


Back to the owl and unfortunately more people than before.  I did what I could with my most beloved Tamron 70-300mm lens, fully zoomed.  Here’s my best, cropped and with slight edits:


And here’s the original:


Like Owen’s Hawk and most certainly Prairie du Sauk’s Bald Eagle, I am over the moo-hoo-hoo-hoo-oon at seeing this wild thing in its wild environment.  A true thrill practically – but not quite – in my backyard.  I will strive to capture it again, closer and clearer, probably on a work day when the park will be less busy but most certainly with Farrah Star attached.  I’m up to the challenge though.  I am after all, a birder.



3 thoughts on “MMM: The Owl Tree of Pheasant Branch Park

  1. Pingback: MMM: Bird on a Fire | Black Panty Salvation

  2. Pingback: Treeclops | Black Panty Salvation

  3. Pingback: MMM: Top Ten Madison Places I’ll Miss | Black Panty Salvation

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