When Chicago birders flocked to Montrose Beach this week for a glimpse of two strange birds not often seen in these parts, they got something far more: a bloody death scene and a queasy feeling they might be partly to blame.
The species--a burrowing owl and a Brant goose--were spotted about 9 a.m. Wednesday within 100 feet of each other in the wooded natural area. Within hours, however, the burrowing owl had been torn apart by a hungry Cooper's hawk in front of chagrined bird-watchers.
By Thursday morning, local Web forums on birding were awash with discussions as to whether over-eager birders helped facilitate the doomed owl's death by showing up in numbers and repeatedly flushing it into the air so it could be seen.
"The sad truth is that we birders may very well have been responsible for the demise of the burrowing owl," wrote Robert Hughes, the man who first spotted it and sent out an alert to other bird watchers.