Long-eared Owl (Asio otus)
My first sighting of a Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) was quite an easy one in a way. Before heading towards Lac du Der in Champagne-Ardenne region, I read posts about several Long-eared Owls being present in the town of Giffaumont located right by Lac du Der. As I had never seen this bird before, I got excited to the idea of seeing one in addition to the thousands of Common Cranes (Grus grus)! By the time I went there, they had become famous as many many photographers came to take a shot in the previous days during the Festival de Montier-en-Der. Alain, a great photographer and birder from the area knew the exact location of the birds and brought me there.
Fortunately, the birds were still there even with so much disturbance. We spent 10 minutes with them, staring at them resting in a willow tree. I could have stayed all day but we wanted to limit the time there as much as possible. We were glad to see they felt comfortable enough to sleep while we were there. There were 5 Long-eared Owls in one tree, and 4 more in another tree nearby. Beautiful and fascinating bird. I felt stunned, completely amazed, and also very lucky.