Happy 420: Willard says ‘Hi’

April 20, 2022

Willard is a Great Horned Owl who has been roosting in a large spruce tree just outside my work entrance at Lethbridge College.

I noticed him for the first time just over a month ago on March 14. As soon as I got to my office, I excitedly sent a note to the college communications team to alert them of the news. I happened to have my camera in the car, I told them, if they would like pictures of the owl to include in our internal newsletter.

Lethbridge College is known for its Great Horned Owl occupants, at least by the long-term staff and faculty. In fact, our internal website is called ‘The Owl’ and features a large heading image with the yellow-eyed beauty. Perched on the edge of the Old Man river valley, scattered with multiple gopher burrows and numerous spruce trees, the campus is perfect territory for Alberta’s Provincial bird.

I knew the appearance of an owl in mid-March was not really news, so was surprised when the comms team emailed me back almost instantly, urging me to take pictures. I happily obliged.

When I left later that day, I noticed the owl was in a slightly better position, so I snapped a couple more pics before heading home. When I downloaded the images later that evening, I was shocked to see the time stamp on the last two images was 4:20pm.

420!!?? Awesome! I love those three digits for so many reasons, but mostly because the number is connected to the spirit of my dad, who died in 2017. Read more about the relationship between 420, wildlife sightings and my dad here.

I racked my brain, trying to remember when I left work. My day ends at 4:30 and I don’t typically leave early. I remembered waking out with my friend/coworker, and was sure we left 5 minutes late. So why does the time stamp say 4:20 on the last two images?

Obviously, the time on my camera is about 15 minutes slow. And also, obviously, some part of the spirit of my dad resides in that owl.

He appeared for a reason, to let me know he’s happy I am back home, in Lethbridge. He wanted me and my family to know he is always watching over us, that love-based bonds never break, even after death.

My co-workers and I named him Willard, after my dad, and he has been hanging out in the spruce tree two or three times a week since I first saw him. I assume there is a nest around, and Willard is the father. Male Great Horned Owls keep guard in the general vicinity of the nest while mom sits on the eggs.

Last Friday, my sister, nieces and I went for a drive to Waterton for the day. It was a nice trip, but having found no photographable animals, I was anxious to give my camera a bit of a workout. With the college on our route back into town, I suggested we stop in and see if Willard was in his tree.

Sure enough, he was, and Tina, Sam and Lexi were super excited to see him! We said ‘hi Willard! and he acknowledged us, briefly half-opening one eye, then the other, before resuming his day time rest.

Tomorrow is 420, and if my blog scheduler worked, this post should have been published precisely at 4:20am. I am planning on celebrating the day with a drive out west in the morning, and a little gathering with friends in the afternoon – starting precisely at 4:20pm, of course.

While I appreciate the psychedelic attributes of the number, the spirit of 420 is not just about getting high. I have so many stories about remarkable wildlife sightings being connected to my dad/the mystical 420/something greater.

My plan for this post was to elaborate on these stories, but I have run out of time and brain power. Instead, I decided to search for the number 420 in all of the number-based image file names I have taken since 2014, just to see what comes up. Out of 20,000+ files, 39 images had 420 in the file name, many of which were previously unedited/un-posted. The following image are my 11 favorite:

420 Black bear cubs – Photographed in Banff in 2017

420 Red Crossbill –photographed in Kananaskis in 2018.

420 Beaver – photographed in Calgary in 2015.

420 River Otter – photographed in Saskatchewan in 2018.

420 Grizzly Cub – photographed in Kananaskis in 2018.

420 Marmots – photographed in Kananaskis in 2017.

420 Northern Pygmy Owl – photographed in Kananaskis in 2019.

420 Rufus Hummingbird – photographed in Kananaskis in 2019.

420 Common Nighthawk – photographed in Southern AB in 2020

420 Northern Saw-whet Owl – photographed in Lethbridge in 2019

420 Moose family – photographed in Kananaskis in 2019.

A seemingly random selection of animals, but maybe not? They all have a certain number in common and that definitely means something.

Please enjoy 420 today, and, as always, continue loving life and everything wild 🙂


  1. Marnie Schaetti

    Love this post! And that the College honours its connection to owls. Most especially, I love how all of this connects to your father.

    • Kerri Martin

      Thanks so much Marnie! 🙂

      • Cherie

        I always love your perspective and commitment to seeing the connection between things.

        • Kerri Martin

          Thanks so much Cherie – Happy 420 🙂

  2. Tina

    These 420 photos are so great! Love this Kiwi

    • Kerri Martin

      yaaaaa – thank you 🙂

  3. Michelle

    Your Dad is proud…what a really neat connection 😊. Animals never cease to amaze me…we recently moved home from northern BC to Alberta and a very large raven I loved came by to say goodbye just before we pulled out to leave and a large, new raven welcomed me this morning to our new home…the circle is complete😊

    • Kerri Martin

      awwww that’s so sweet – I love ravens! thanks Michelle 🙂

  4. Laura Ganz

    What a lovely post, Kerri. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Kerri Martin

      Thanks so much Laura 🙂

  5. Brendan C

    Great story, Kerri. And I love all the photos! 🙂

    • Kerri Martin

      Thanks so much Brendan!

  6. Brendan C

    I forgot to add that the 420 connections are a real hoot!

    • Kerri Martin

      LOL – awesome!!


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