The Late, Great Ed Park: Owl pranks with an old friend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

The Late, Great Ed Park: Owl pranks with an old friend

Ed Park doing what he liked best in the "Good Old Days." Photo by Jim AndersonEd Park, Central Oregon's best outdoor writer, cross-country skier, runner, and wildlife photographer has gone out among the stars.

Ed was a gem and an Oregonian through-and-through. He was a graduate of the grand old "Cow College" (OSU) over in Corvallis, and a student of Oregon's wildlife treasures. He lived with, studied and wrote a superb book on our elusive and fun-filled, Northern River Otter, Lontra canadensis; and for years, was the guts and feathers of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. As such, he was a prodigious writer for several outdoor magazines that spanned a time warp from the mid-50s into this century. Moreover, from the early '90s to when he left us, he did it with one finger, the result of a terrible stroke in 1991.(Go to, and read the delightful interview Ed gave not too long ago.)

Ed and I were good pals, and we took great joy in introducing others to the magnificent and complicated world of Nature. I say we took "great joy" because between us, and especially with Ed's unique sense of humor, we rattled a few cages, one of which was almost international, to whit...

In the early '60s, when I was working for OMSI and active in the Portland Audubon Society, Alan Baldridge, and his lovely wife, Sheila, visited from England on a birding tour. From the time I first met Alan he went on about how much he enjoyed the time he spent with the largest owl in the world, the huge and illustrious Eurasian Eagle Owl, Bubo bubo of Europe and Asia.

Oh, yes, that's a mighty big owl; the female weighs in at about 9 pounds and has a 6-to-7-foot wingspan. They eat anything they want to, and have a disposition similar to that of a professional wrestler with a toothache. Alan wanted to compare our Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus - an owl with a similar disposition - and place it on his Birding Life List.

Not more than two weeks before Alan and Sheila came into my life, Ed and I had been banding Great Horned Owls in the Alfalfa/Powell Buttes area. We came upon a nesting pair that ate barn cats like popcorn and violently kicked me out of their territory. What a pair! I thought Alan and Sheila should meet them, so I called Ed (who lived in Bend at the time) and asked him if we could get permission to visit the nest again, which was on Shumway holdings.

From the time Alan met Ed, it was all about the Eurasian Eagle Owl, but Ed just looked at me and winked. He kept playing down our big great horned (also known as the "Tiger of the Air"), saying they were nothing like the eagle owl, just peaceful, shy, difficult to find and all that malarkey.

I was suffering from a guilty conscience as Ed went on snowballing Alan, but off we went to Alfalfa. As we approached the nest, the male let out a little hoot of warning, and the female stood up from where she had been sleeping with her babies. "Oh, right-o..." Alan whispered, looking at the owl through his binoculars. Ed flashed me a big grin.

"Now here's what you do," Ed said quietly to Alan. "You see how that old juniper leans into the other one with the nest? All you have to do is walk up the leaner and you can see right into the nest and take all the pictures you want."

"Grand, grand..." Alan answered enthusiastically, and headed for the tree.

I will never forget Ed's evil leer as Alan started up that tree. I will also never forget the look on that momma owl's face as she watched Alan coming her way. (Hey, I had already been there, and had the scars to prove it; I knew what was coming, and so did Ed, with guile and relish.)

Poor Alan got almost halfway to the nest when the male decided he had come close enough. With a loud bark, followed by staccato hooting he headed right for Alan. Sheila shouted, "Oh, watch out, Alan!"

Alan did watch out-he ducked as the owl zoomed by him, but made an almost fatal error; he took his eyes off of momma owl, and she took full advantage of it. That imposing bird leaped into the air on those four-foot wings and all three-and-a-half pounds of her - with her eight needle-sharp talons right in front of her huge yellow eyes - slammed into Alan's back.

He let out a loud, "Oh, I...!" and with arms flailing, left the juniper tree, gravity working on him all the way down. He landed with a great "woo-of" flat on his back, looking up at the male owl that came flashing by, hooting at him.

It was at that moment that Ed couldn't hold it in any longer; he started laughing his fool head off, and then with his best English accent he said - through his tears - "Oh, I say, Alan! Does our owl behave anything like the eagle owl...?"

Sheila, incensed with our tricking Alan, bristled into the fine English lady she was and waving her finger at us shouted, "You just go ahead and laugh,, bloody Yanks, but that's me old man laying there!"

I know Ed is laughing as I write this, but what you don't know is that I can go on for days about the many good times we enjoyed with the beautiful Nature of Oregon.

So long, Ed, there are many of us from the Good Old Days that will miss you, and look forward to seeing you again, perhaps some of us sooner than we planned on...

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