Western Screech Owls … Oh My

What can I say about owls?  I just ADORE them!  Whether they’re burrowing owls (as blogged about last post), or any of the other North American species (great horned, barred, northern hawk, northern pygmy, northern saw whet, snowy, great gray, barn, boreal, flammulated, ferruginous pygmy, long-eared, short-eared, spotted owl) … oh, and I can’t forget the screech owls – eastern and western species.

In Florida, we were graced with a pair of eastern screech owls which took up residence in our yard, or in a neighbor’s yard, and gave us the opportunity to watch their young grow up and eventually fledge.  One time, Tom even got to rescue a 2-week old owlet that had fallen out of its nest while its mom was sleeping.

So it’s safe to say I have a definite love for them.  So when I heard that there was going to be a public owl banding event in my area, I just knew that I had to be there for it.500_3025That’s right … the Grand Valley Audubon Society, who incidentally had the highest record of western screech owls in the U.S. in 2017, was going to be visiting some known nests in the area and banding the mom and the young owlets.  Most of the owls were from owl boxes that the Audubon group or residents had erected to promote good environments for them to breed in and raise their young.IMG_7444One of the coolest things to me was that this event focused on youth and so lots of children were in attendance.  I remember thinking how cool this would have been for me as I was growing up.  Once the owls were gathered, they would examine them for age, past banding (if applicable), etc.  Records are kept to aid in the scientific studies of the species.IMG_7440When one of the moms was held, Kim (the biologist who was banding them) educated kids and adults alike on many things, including the “brood patch” which is evident when mom is caring for her very young … keeping them warm.IMG_7438The young owlets, of course, were a bit unaware of what was going on, but they didn’t seem to mind too much.500_2959Once a band was placed, that number and location would be recorded on the record sheets.500_3008Each owlet of the brood would take their turn in banding and would then get huddled up together for security and warmth.  Here you can see 5 babies … which was a new one for me.500_2928Could these sweet little faces be any cuter?500_2968Mama would always keep a close eye on her young and though seemingly irritated at first, would calm down in no time.500_2876500_2989It was interesting to me to see the variation of number of young at each nest and also the timing of their new arrivals … as some were clearly older or younger than others.
500_2981500_3002One thing was for sure … they were all adorable!  Look at those iconic lemon yellow eyes and all of that down looking feathers.  I was in heaven as I happily snapped off images at each stop.500_3047Yes, I was bitten by the western screech owl bug for sure!  Can’t wait to do it again next year.  ❤500_3038Hope that everyone enjoyed it as much as I did.  I would highly encourage any of you owl-lovers out there to take advantage of any programs that you might have in your town to spend some time with this worthwhile educational event.  Be forewarned though … you might just have your heart melted.  🙂

Next Up:  More local birding action

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com               http://www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

More Burrowing Owls … Say What?

So, during the 2017 burrowing owl season of raising the young owlets, I knew that we were moving to Colorado before I could get another years worth of the “owl fun”.  I was determined to get my fill, if you will, of these incredibly personable cuties.  These images in this, as well as the others posted in the last year, have been from the 2017 season. With that, I invite you to sit back and check out this next installment of images … and laugh if you will, but appreciate how amazing these little owls are.

Adult burrowing owls, especially the dads, play a huge role in keeping the intruders at bay or at least keeping their family safe from them.  Often that means issuing the call for them to rapidly retreat into the burrow for safety.  To help them identify any threats in their environment, they often perch on the stakes in their area to get a better vantage point.

DSC_8010Early in the season, both parents are often found at and above the burrow.  Sometimes they’re coughing up pellets …..DSC_8529….. sometimes they’re simply spending some much needed time preening themselves …..DSC_8590….. sometimes they’re staring upward towards the sky looking at predators, other flying birds, planes, insects, or the errant helium balloon.DSC_0188After a call is issued to dive into the burrow, they eventually emerge … cautiously I might add.  The owl on the left is one of the parents, while the other is a young owlet which is obviously a bit more timid and cautious.DSC_8542You may have noticed a slight difference in the color of the eyes in the adult and young in the above image.  See, while burrowing owls usually have the traditional lemon yellow eyes, they don’t always.  As you can see below, sometimes the adults or the owlets have very dark (almost alien looking) eyes.  It’s not that the younger owl dark eyes will change, it’s just how they’re born.  I find both to be so fascinating … as well as the variety of variations in between.  🙂DSC_4613The young owlets are quite the inquisitive bunch … and you can almost see their minds working as they try to figure out the significance of everything that they see.DSC_4729This trio is all from the same burrow and much like our own children can have different eye colors, so can these owls … all from the same set of parents.  I just love how they tend to follow each others focal point.DSC_4698Burrowing owls, as their name implies, make their homes in burrows on the ground.  Now that I live in Colorado, which also has burrowing owls (more on that later), an obvious difference between them is that in Florida, these owls dig their own burrows in the grasses.  In Colorado, they make residence in abandoned prairie dog burrows.  They are also residential in Florida, while transient in Colorado, though they raise their young in both.DSC_8766The stare of any owl is quite intense and powerful and these little guys are no different.DSC_8683What seems like silly antics in these owls are actually how they see and interpret their world.  They perform these extreme head twists in an effort to triangulate coordinates, distances, etc.DSC_9858One of the most endearing moments is that when the young owlets are interacting with the adults, such as this moment of the mom feeding a worm to its young.  Such patient parents.DSC_0093It’s usually not long before the young owls are out and about and testing their own skills for securing their own food.  Soon they will be on their own and obviously that’s a very important life skill.DSC_9916Looks like this one was pretty successful in tearing into its meal and devouring it.DSC_9784Each owl has its own personality and believe it or not, the observer can tell them all apart for the individuals that they are.  I mean, how could anyone not love these cuties?DSC_0076While mom plays more of a role feeding the young the food that the dad hunts down, the dad sometimes needs a break and retreats into a nice shady tree for some rest, relaxation, and mainly quiet time.  LOLDSC_8738Yes the life of a burrowing owl is quite an interesting one … and whether they’re warm and dry … or wet and soggy as this one is … their expressions are endless and personalities varied, but they all are pretty social and definitely ADORABLE!DSC_9793I hope that everyone enjoyed the burrowing owl images … I do have one more installment coming up in the near future.

Next Up:  As long as we’re talking about owls … how about some personal time with some screech owls?

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com            www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

I’ve Always Wanted To Go To British Columbia In The Spring … So I Did :-)

Not too long ago we amde a trip to British Columbia for some birding opportunities.  One of the places that we visited was the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Delta, B.C. (Canada).  It has been designated as a site of Hemispheric Importance by the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network.  Consisting of marshes, wetlands, and dikes, one can see a sampling of the approximately 250 species that, at one time or another, call the sanctuary home.850_2360People tend to ask when the best time to visit there (or anywhere else for that matter) … well, it all depends on what you’re looking to find.  We didn’t pick our visit time for any particular reason, other than that’s when we were on holiday.  🙂  Of course, springtime is always a pretty safe bet if baby birds are on your agenda.

There were many (as in many many) wood ducks present.  Since it’s a species that I didn’t get a lot of in Florida, I was tickled with them being so available.  Everyone’s favorite is the quite colorful / beautiful male wood duck.  With its iridescent colored head, colorful beak, and that iconic red eye, it’s easy to see why.850_2362While there were female wood ducks and young ones in tow, I tended to concentrate on the striking males.500_1185Speaking of striking males, the cinnamon teals were also present … male and female … but the most photogenic were again the males.850_2474I just love the way the frothy waters and floating feathers ornamented this beautiful one.500_0982There are lots of hiking trails along the way and quite a few bird boxes, some affectionately labeled as “Apartments”.  Nice to see some tree swallows making good use of them.850_2419They were also plentiful outside of their nesting homes as they flew around in search of bugs and other dining choices.  So very beautiful they are.850_2520It wasn’t just tree swallows either … quite a few barn swallows had nested in the rafters of some of the gazebos in the area.500_1228Of course, no Canada trip could be complete without some Canada goose and their goslings swimming by us.  I just love how the young ones are usually bookended by the adults.  LOL500_1316Along the boardwalks we found several spotted towhees feeding seeds left by the tons of visitors that had come by before us.  I just love that red eye of these quite beautiful sparrow-like birds.850_2436A beautiful song sparrow was spotted as it darted through the marshes.  Thankfully it pause long enough for a few snaps of the lens.500_1053Singing away so beautifully was this adorable marsh wren, also spotted in the marshes and very cooperatively perched on an open reed.  Just love the way their tail feathers stand up like that.500_0925There was also a pair of sandhill cranes who were nesting there.  They reportedly had nested earlier in the season and lost their eggs, but re-nested soon enough.  Hopefully they became proud parents of a baby colt or two just a few weeks later.  🙂500_1153Nearby the sanctuary, we found this beautiful great horned owl, which had 2 fledgling owlets perched high up in the trees as well.  Try as I might, I couldn’t get a clear shot of them.  Ugh.500_1253Of course, being in British Columbia (near waters) bald eagles were numerous.  We were thrilled when this pair flew overhead past us.500_1132At another nearby park, we came across a absolutely stunning red-breasted sapsucker.  Often one might find rufous hummingbirds near these woodpeckers which drill sap wells in the riparian trees, but we just saw this guy who entertained us for quite some time.  Such a gorgeous bird!500_1547500_1397Well, that’s just a sampling of the various birds we found during our stay in British Columbia.  Before I close, I’ll leave you with one more image.  🙂500_1575Hope that you enjoyed that …

Next Up:  Got so many more burrowing owls to share, so if you’re ready …

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com                 http://www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

Few Things Are Cuter Than Fox Kits

Everyone knows that my absolute favorite subject to photograph are bears … brown bears, black bears, polar bears … it doesn’t matter.  They are far and above my number one!  After bears, my affection goes to owls … great horned, burrowing, western screech, barn, eastern screech, barred, short-eared, long-eared, northern pygmy, northern saw whet, or even the snowy (yes, we had one visit once in FL, believe it or not).  After bears and owls, come fox!  Yes FOX, and in 2018 so far, I’ve had my share of them.

One encounter, my first in Colorado, was particularly exciting for me to witness … as the first always is.  Sure, I’ve encountered many in other areas, such as Yellowstone and the Tetons, but this one was CO.

It seemingly appeared out of nowhere … and as you can see, it brought along its shadow as well.  LOL.

500_9056Before long, another appeared over the dirt berm and my heart began to skip a beat.500_9027To witness such sweetness makes it difficult for me to photograph.  I want to stare directly into it mesmerizing eyes and follow that up with squeals of delight.  Look at that dirty nose, indicative of the rooting around that it had been doing.500_9284Wasn’t sure how it would react to me, as I respectfully kept my distance, though never let it willingly out of my sight.  I think it was a contest of intrigue and curiosity of the other.  I absolutely loved that it showed no fear whatsoever with my presence and continued to act so naturally.500_9300Birds flew about and called out periodically, which made the fox kit turn its attention to them as well.500_9117Before long, the two began to attempt at playing, which furthered my happiness.  There’s nothing as wonderful to me when photographing wildlife as to have them acting like the young kits that they were … much like bear cubs or owlets, their entire day is filled with learning about their environment and other life lessons that will serve them well.  Of course, there’s always time for playfulness too.500_9168It was all I could do to keep my excitement to myself when I was met with stares like this.500_9112As 2018 progressed, I had other fox kit encounters … so much so that it felt like it had become the year of the fox for me … that is, until I returned to Alaska recently.  LOL500_9375-Edit-EditI really hope that everyone enjoys the little fox kits … for there are so many more to go.  Until then, I look at this image and my heart reignites.  Any other fox lovers out there?

Next up:  Sanctuary birds of BC

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com                Blog:  www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com

Western Slope Birding in Late Spring

Back to checking out the local birds of the western slope of Colorado.  What I have found since being here is that you never know what … or where … you ‘re going to find our feathered friends.

Case in point, while visiting a local park, we saw a flock of birds arriving at the lake.  I looked and immediately declared (to myself) that these were glossy ibis.  After a quick check for CO birds, I noticed that they don’t get glossy ibis like we did in Florida.  Rather, these were white-faced ibis.  Very similar except for the white colored face … both species though are very beautiful with their iridescent feathers, especially in the light.850_1634Common terns also call my new area home and often seen flying overhead.500_3614One species that we never see in FL (I guess one should never say “never”) are the western grebes.  These birds tend to summer with us and are quite beautiful, especially with that red eye that they possess.850_1653850_1662850_1664850_1667American wigeon taking off across the lake.500_3626Of course, raptors pass through in numbers too.  Take the American kestrel for example … always flying by seemingly in such a hurry.850_1669-EditAlong the water’s edge one can find an assortment of shorebirds, such as this wonderful spotted sandpiper.500_9907Up in the trees, yellow warbler congregate as they flutter in an out of the branches.500_9484Western kingbirds are quite the noisy bunch and difficult to miss when they are present.  500_9872500_9866This male black-headed grosbeak is a routine visitor as well.500_9764While a western kingbird is a type of flycatcher, we also have ash-throated flycatchers.  I just love their head feather crest.500_9689Of course, closer to home, I can always count on the house finch, as well as a variety of other sparrows and finches.  We had so many outdoor cats in our neighborhood in FL, so we never did the bird feeders, but we have here … and also the bird bath fountain, which is a personal favorite of mine to observe.  🙂500_9954Next up:  3 letters … beings with “f” and they get me quite excited when I see them.

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com                www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com