One of the things that I love most living in south Florida is our availability of burrowing owls to photograph. They are year-round residents, but my favorite time of year is in the spring of course. That’s when the baby owlets begin to emerge out of their burrows for the first time. :-)
They are hysterical to observe as they very timidly peek outside at the world around them. They are so curious at just about everything going on “above ground”, for the first few weeks they were nurtured within the protection of the underground burrow … safe from the predators and the elements. When first introduced to their new life outside, they tend to stay huddled together.
Just how cute are they? This is the stage that I affectionately refer to as the “hair plug stage” (sorry guys). LOL
While the babies remain close to the burrow, the dad usually ventures out to hunt for food in the early morning or late evening. You can tell the adult by the speckled pattern on the underside, while the babies possess that mocha colored downy look.
While the young ones stand vigil at the entrance to the burrow, already with a keen eye for what’s going on in their surroundings. But as with anything else, there’s always one that gets easily distracted.
The adults are extremely protective of their young and will observe the overhead skies for any signs of a potential threat or predator. One quick bark from either mom or dad and those owlets retreat in almost a blink of an eye. Very early on too, they learn to begin to scan the skies themselves.
In south Florida, the majority of the threats come from red-shouldered hawks, though a handful of red-tailed hawks also circle overhead looking for a meal.
These owls are also quite expressive and have a never-ending array of “looks”. There’s the surprised look ….
The caught in the act look ….
Everyone’s favorite though is always the curiosity look, with the head cocked over to one side, sometimes even almost totally upside down. LOL
After not too much time they learn to fly, which is absolutely by far my favorite time. You can just see their minds at work, trying to calculate that perfect plan for flight. Usually they start off perfecting the lowest perch-able item around, most often the stake that usually is present to identify the burrow.
Sometimes there’s a nearby perch which can be used as their next step. I just love how they always stop and size up their next step. On a side note, look at those wonderful downy under feathers, or what I call, the “petticoat”. So adorable.
No test though is more fun to watch as the rope landing. Of course, that rope is not the most secured nor stable landing, so when they land and begin to pull in their wings, they wobble … back & forth, over and over. Eventually they perfect that balancing act.
Then there’s playtime … so entertaining. Again, you can watch the “attack scheming” in action play out. Usually one plays a more dominant role, while the other performs a more submissive behavior.
Eventually they break it up, but not before the fun watching the one on its back squirm around trying to right itself again.
Yes, the burrowing owls are a real “hoot” to photograph. So take a bow for your audience young owl, but don’t think that this is the end of my time with you. The season is young and lots more visits loom ahead.
Next up: More burrowing owls
© 2015 Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography