A few years ago, Tom & I visited Rocky Mountain National Park, where we photographed a great horned owl nest. I remember it like it was yesterday … the owl was snuggly situated into the nest, which was swaying in the breeze. I delighted in seeing it … though it pretty much remained motionless. So when we returned to RMNP, Tom’s first comments to me were “We should go find that owls nest”, to which I thought he was crazy that we could ever remember exactly where it was.
However, after just a few moments, he did just do that! (How in the world do guys do that?!)
Sure enough, the female great horned owl was situated in the nest, but this time (several weeks later than the last time we visited), she was sitting high. I wondered if she might have some eggs or even better, some babies under there. Trying to do everything possible to not attract a circus of on-lookers, I set up my tripod a bit out of the way from the local traffic.
Before long, I could see that she had at least one baby owlet in the nest with her. It was real young too, as evidenced by its fuzzy white appearance.
It would snuggle up to her every now and then and almost seem to get up on its tippytoes to peer over the confines of the nest. I was in heaven!
Over the course of the several days that we watched her and what turned out to be at least 2 babies, we never did see the male, though we did one night observe her leaving the nest.
I feared for the worse … could it be that something happened to the male? If so, how would she feed herself and her young? Other photographers and observers in the area said that they hadn’t seen the dad either. Yet I saw a smorgasbord of nutritious offerings within the nest … the remnants of a northern flicker, a somewhat intact bunny rabbit – perhaps even two of them. Something must be helping this poor mom out.
Sensing my concern and knowing that he was going to have to deal with my distress about where the dad is, Tom went off into the woods looking for “signs” of the dad’s presence. See, we recently had a lot of experienced tracking owls in our mango tree at home, as we were graced with a pair of eastern screech owls and their 3 young owlets (more on that in a later post). He was gone for quite some time, but surprised me with his findings when he returned. The first thing that he asked was whether the female had just left the nest within the last few minutes. When I replied that it hadn’t, he assured me that he had then indeed just witnessed the male flying from a nearby tree when he approached it. At that same site, he found numerous poops and pellets on the ground. Of course, being the curious soul that he is, he discovered partial bones and fur from a recent meal, along with an entire intact skull of an unfortunate victim, which served as “dinner”. Yes, all was deemed good, knowing that the owl kingdom was intact itself! I sure was relieved. 🙂
In addition to that particular nest, we also found another one in town, but this one wasn’t nesting in a tree, but in a rocky ledge of a “natural wall” inside town.
Now this one was much more difficult for me to photograph, especially since Tom didn’t want me setting up my tripod and camera/lens at the site, trying also not to attract a crowd. So there I was … in our rental car, all crammed up with my camera, 500 mm lens, and teleconverter … in all sorts of positions, trying to get the shot.
This particular one was almost impossible to determine if it had a baby owlet already or not, as the cavity was toward the wall and we were unsure of how far it went back. We never did see any young … yet, though we did witness it dining on a local delicacy of some poor unfortunate grayish bird, as evidenced nicely in its beak.
For those of you who know me personally … know that I absolutely adore ALL owls … barred, barn, great gray, screech, burrowing, snowy, and of course, the great horned owls as well. So it’s safe to say that I ended my trip with a huge smile on my face.
Future blogs will feature some of the other wonderful places that we visited on this most recent trip. Keep your eye on the lookout for the next post.
© 2014 TNWA Photography