“It’s pretty well obscured, even with the best of efforts, even with spotting scopes,” he said.
That awkward vantage point has led some watchers to overstep allowable bounds and venture beyond the trail into off-limit areas to catch a peek.
“If there’s a charismatic animal within a very accessible area and you don’t have to work hard to get right under it, people are going to flock to it,” Poole said. “But you’re always going to have people who want to push the envelope a little bit, even if there is a clear area where they can or cannot be.”
Poole said disturbing a bird particularly when it’s nesting can have unfortunate consequences.
“If you disturb it to a point where it abandons its nest, the eggs may no longer be viable if they start getting cold,” he said.
Dave Larson, education and science coordinator at Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center in Newburyport, caught a glimpse of the great horned owl while leading a guided tour on the refuge last Saturday.
“We walked down with the group and there were a million elbows and everybody was trying to see what was going on,” he said. “It was very hard to see the nest unless you knew exactly where it was. The fact that it was in a grove of fairly closely set, youngish pines, you had to sort of get the right angle and look between the right set of trunks to spot it.”
Even then, he said he witnessed people ignoring signs and venturing where they shouldn’t.
Larson said he was somewhat surprised at the nest the owl had chosen to rear her eggs. Owls don’t build their own nests, but take over ones abandoned by other species, he said. He suspects this particular nest was last used by a crow or a larger hawk and was a tight fit for the owl.