I LOVE OWLS!!! All kinds of owls … from the burrowing … to the barred … to the great horned … to the snowy … to the great gray … to the barn … and yes, to the eastern screech owl … endorphins release in my brain when I think about them. (Side note for those of you who read my blog post on my neighborhood eastern screech owls … we heard them last night calling out to each other, so they’re still here … all is good again).
So when I had the opportunity to potentially get to photograph not just one, but two new species for me, I was quite the excited photographer! So off we went, thanks to a great friend of mine.
It wasn’t long either until we spotted the first one … the long-eared owl. Isn’t he just gorgeous? I laugh because when I first saw it, I think that I had a similar facial expression … wide-eyed and intense.
These long-eared owls are quite amazing. So very beautiful with their rufous facial disc with that distinctive white patch under their bill. They remind me a lot of the great horned owls, but they’re smaller, standing about 13-16″ and weighing about 8.5 oz.
They have asymmetrical ear openings. The left ear is higher than the right, which helps them better locate their prey by sound.
I could have stayed there photographing them for the rest of our trip … they were that mesmerizing to me. 🙂 Interesting also to note is that the male’s hoot can sometimes be heard quite the distance … more than 1/2 mile away! It would be like playing a game of “Marco”-“Polo” trying to find them by just sound.
They are unlike other owls in that during the winter months, they nest in a communal fashion with others in the nearby vicinity, in the thick brush and trees. It’s easy to see how they got their name too … like bunny rabbit ears almost. LOL. Can’t help but wonder about their success in nesting and what their babies look like.
While out looking for owls, we saw many other birds, like this meadowlark … doing what meadowlarks do … singing away. We also saw more northern harriers than I have ever seen collectively in my lifetime. It was amazing!
But let’s get back to the owls. Another lifer for me were the short-eared owls. They reminded me a lot of the northern harriers too as they cruised the same type of landscapes foraging for food.
As with other owls, they glided gracefully and with such ease low over the landscape. As opposed to the long-eared owls, these had very small ear tufts. Also a medium-sized owl, their head has a pale buff facial disc, with black around the eyes, which of course, are that magnificent yellow.
Aerial displays during courtship must be fascinating to observe, though it was too early for that when we were there. These owls nest on the ground on a mound or slight raise of the land, laying about 3-11 eggs.
While usually spotted flying erratically around, once in awhile they do land and seemingly pose for the camera. Thankfully. 🙂
As if those owl sightings weren’t enough for me, we were also treated to the cutest porcupine hanging out, feeding, on a nearby tree.
I’m always fascinated by them and this guy was quite far up the tree, so I felt safe. LOL. Of course, porcupine don’t “throw” their quills like many are lead to believe, but to me, their sheer presence wants to make me respect their “comfort zone”.
Now this guy, though adorable with those big orange teeth, was only semi-cooperating with us. Sure the light was perfect, but that dang branch always seeming to cover up his face and eyes partially.
So we asked for some divine intervention. Actually Jen asked the porcupine to kindly remove that pesky branch for us, so that we might get a better shot. I had no idea that I was with, apparently, the “Porcupine Whisperer”. Within literally a few seconds, would you believe that the porcupine did just that? No joke!
Now that’s a face that everyone can both see, enjoy, and love! What an ending to our day exploring … Owls and Porcupines … yeah,this was an awesome day!
Not sure how it can get better for me, but rest assured it does!
Next stop: Grand Teton National Park! Stay tuned.
© 2015 Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography