Oh, I Can’t Get Enough Of These Guys

So did anyone out there think that the burrowing owl images from Florida were done?  LOL, oh no my friends, I still have lots of images to share from the 2017 owls … and don’t forget that I visited with my feathered friends also in 2018… so hang on.  Hope that I don’t bore anyone with more images of these cuties.  🙂

So, let’s start of with a typical juvenile burrowing owl.  So dang adorable, I can hardly stand it.  LOL.  I mean, who could look into those big bright yellow eyes and not fall in love?  ❤DSC_8229Of course, they don’t always look like that.  When they first emerge from the safety of the burrow at around 2 weeks old, they appear more like this guy on the right.  I affectionately call this their “hair plug stage”, with those adorable downy looking feathers emerging on the tops of their heads.  The one on the left has already lost most of theirs, indicating that they’re a bit older.  Why would it be you might ask?  Well, the owlets within a brood hatch at different times.DSC_7871As they grow up, they become quite affectionate, not only to their parents who provide excellent care of them, but also to their siblings.  Often they huddle up for comfort and safety.DSC_7252In Florida, there’s always plenty of bugs around the burrow to entertain them.  It’s so much fun to watch them as they get focused on crawling ants, buzzing bees, flying butterflies, or even an errant balloon or plane in the sky.DSC_7598There’s something so special about any head tilt from a young owl.DSC_8258And it seems that the more it tilts it, the more excited we onlookers get.  LOLDSC_8303Of course, so owls get so bored with it all.  🙂  Either that or sometimes they yawn like this when they’re preparing to expel a pellet, which is actually undigested bones, feathers, etc.  DSC_7317Most burrowing owls regularly will take a few moment to stretch their wings … usually a leg goes with it.  Sometimes it’s one side, then the other, and then they end up in almost a bow stretch.DSC_9751Often people wonder how you tell the difference between the adults and the young owlets.  Many times people say size, which works well when they’re younger, but a month or two down the road and size is difficult to use.  Here is a good example of an adult on the left, with the jevenile on the right.  The juveniles possess that creamy looking belly, while the adults will be more barred feather pattern.  DSC_8155DSC_9636In 2017, I witnessed something that I had never witnessed in the years earlier.  This behavior where the adult lays down low and spreads its wings out laterally.  It often also puffs up its wings almost creating a dust cloud in the earth below.  It’s thought that perhaps it’s how and trying to cool off.DSC_8048I even saw little ones seemingly laying on the earth as well.DSC_7723When it comes to eating, in the beginning the parents bring food to their young.  Here a lizard, from a cached stash, was retrieved and offered to the young owl.  It’s so fascinating to watch as they grab the prey with their feet and maneuver it skillfully, eventually able to consume the entire lizard.DSC_9946Self grooming, as well as mutual grooming, are practiced regularly by the burrowing owls.  Sometimes it’s the parents doing the work, other times it’s the siblings.DSC_8930There’s nothing like the shade provided by a tree when the temperatures start to rise.  Doesn’t this one look so content?  I mean, it almost appears to be smiling.  LOLDSC_8216This pair of young owls, gathered at the bottom of a marker post, almost trying to figure out how to reach the perch.  All in good time, my little owls.DSC_7668Yep, before long they navigating the ropes and exercising those wings.  You can almost see how proud they are too when they succeed.DSC_9140Of course, the ultimate goal is that of the nearby trees.  On the hanging branches, it becomes a bit dicey when your fellow mate jumps on in your spot as well.  LOLDSC_0473But they quickly settle down and establish solidity in their standing.DSC_0449In South FL, we often get lots of rain, and people wonder how they fare in it.  I must first say that it’s one of my favorite times to photograph them.  Not only does it cool down for the onlooker, but also their feathers get all wet and therefore textured more.  DSC_9811They fluff up often and try to shake the water droplet off of their feathers.  One more observation is that they tend to get a bit grumpy looking too. DSC_9871Yes, there are few things more enjoyable that spending hours observing and photographing these adorable young owls.DSC_0101They are so full of personalities, silly antics, and tons of expressions … all which leave me laughing out loud … even when I’m there alone.DSC_7444One more image to share before I close this blog post.  As I said before, I have lots more to share so stay tuned.  One day too I hope to share some from my new area as well.  Until that happens, enjoy this ….DSC_8286Next Up:  An unforgettable experience and sighting from the winter

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

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

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Neighboring Birds Just Outside

Since moving to Colorado, I have learned a lot about hawks.  I’ve learned that not every hawk is a red-shouldered hawk … in fact, out in CO, it’s highly unlikely that any of them would be.  🙂  However, one thing that’s for sure is that all of them are quite remarkable and beautiful.DSC_2522While I thought that Florida had a lot of eagles, there are plenty of them here as well.  The biggest difference is that here in CO, we have bald eagles, but we also have golden eagles, which I have found completely fascinating!DSC_2502We also have Cooper’s hawks, in addition to sharp-shinned hawks, which are both smaller hawk species … the type that are likely to hang out in your yard looking for some unsuspecting birds.DSC_2681While in Florida we had eastern screech owls, here we have western screech owls.  They are just as beautiful to hear late in the dark of night and even to witness as they peek out of their cavity or owl box dwelling on cold days as they sun themselves.  We have so many western screech owls out here … that on the Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count day, the 15-mile circle from Grand Junction, we found 93 of them … the highest in the nation!DSC_2554-EditSometimes the wildlife is right outside your window, as was in this case.  This beautiful sharp-shinned hawk was poised right outside my window standing on our rain gutter downspout._DSC4581We have a variety of woodpeckers and I was quite delighted when I found this gal at a nearby state park.DSC_2436The rivers are full of a variety of ducks and other water birds … some residents and some migratory.  These common merganser ladies are fairly common and often found in the company of other waterfowl.DSC_2679The views ain’t too bad either … as evidenced by this shot of the Book Cliff Mountains … only only of the mountains in our distance, of which we also have the Grand Mesa and the Colorado National Monument.DSC_0001-Edit-EditSome nights you can see pairs of predator birds, such as these two bald eagles or great horned owls, as they roost in the early evening.  DSC_3279-Edit-EditOf course, the sunsets can be quite colorful and very relaxing as well.  Ahhh!DSC_0017Yes, western Colorado is quite a magnificent place to call home and is close to many other equally fascinating locales.  Yep, we love it here.  🙂

Next Up:  Let’s go search for raptors!

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

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

Photography Fun In Western Colorado

Living in Western Colorado has its advantages … one of them is that there never seems to be a shortage of places to look for landscapes, birds, or wildlife.  Just a few hours from home provides endless opprtunities.

Like these sandhill cranes, that congregate in fields numbering in the thousands, as they migrate through in the winter months.  It’s been wonderful seeing them, though I’m not going to lie, I sure miss the baby colts.  🙂

DSC_9670Speaking of congregating by the thousands, the Canada geese do the same!  One day we watched them fly into an area park, doing aerial acrobatics as they prepared to land.  I’m talking complete 360’s!  Snow geese also migrate through which has been fascinating.  A new bird for me was the greater white-fronted goose, seen below showing off and stretching out its wings for the crowds.DSC_9864While I thought that central Florida had its share of turkeys … but on the western slope, I’ve seen so many more!  Recently, we came a cross a group with the displaying male running the females along.  They are quite fascinating when they fly too.DSC_9992-EditOne of my favorite birds are now the mountain bluebirds.  You can imagine my thrill when I spotted these 5 on the tops of a bare tree.  True bluebirds of happiness for sure.DSC_9911-Edit-2Eagles also seem to be everywhere, whether they’re golden eagles or bald eagles.DSC_0098Some of the wildlife that call the area home are desert bighorn sheep, elk, moose, foxes, and other things, like the mule deer.DSC_0197Of all of them that I’ve photographed, I think I found this one the most amazing.  I mean, look at those gigantic fuzzy ears!  LOLDSC_0222-EditEven the rabbits are so adorable.DSC_0281-EditI have two more bird species that I’ve encountered that were new to me since moving out west.  The first is the evening grosbeak, which is actually a rather large finch.  the male, shown in the images, is such a beautifully colored bird.  They feed on insects, saps, berries, seeds, and buds.  This day, we encountered lots of them all gathered in a tree after some snow had fallen.  So very wonderful to hear them singing up a storm and jumping around as they fed.DSC_0672-EditDSC_0755-Edit-EditThe other new bird for me was actually a fascinating raptor, an owl … a very tiny owl … the northern pygmy owl.  As the name implies … how small is this bird? … so small that we almost drove right past it.  Thankfully we didn’t.  A quick through the binoculars was all that it took to confirm our finding.  Wow!  We were quite pleased.  Standing only 5-9 inches, it’s length is 7-7.5 inches and it only weighs just over 2 oz.  DSC_0479This owl was quite the cooperative one too … giving us lots of eye contact, as it eyed the surroundings about it as it prepared to hunt.  As we were photographing it, I couldn’t believe that we actually spotted it.  As they say, sometimes when you’re not looking for something, you find it, or should I say … it finds you.DSC_0343Now when I first went to capture an image, this is what I saw.  :-O  My first impression was something like “what’s up with this one?  Is it blind?”  Of course, I quickly remembered that they possessed white-framed black dots on the back side of their head feathers, which are meant to resemble another set of eyes.  OK, so this must be what our parents meant when they would tell us that they had eyes in the back of their head.  LOLDSC_0415But alas, it had the most brillant yellow eyes … where they should be … confirming our ade identity as it being a mature adult.  Eventually, it must have spotted something too good to pass up, so it left its perch.  It was a fabulous encounter.  Just me, my friend Amy, and this beautiful raptor!  Already looking forward to a reunion.  😉DSC_0367-EditHope that everyone enjoyed the blog post :  stories and images

Next Up:  Mountain goats galore

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

Hang On Buddies … I’ll Be There Soon :-)

Well, look at what we have here?  Ma … Pa …. we have visitors  🙂

One of the most missed photographic subjects to me are the burrowing owls.  It’s isn’t that we don’t have them here in western Colorado, it’s just that these south Florida owls I have come to know and love, are just too darned cute.  In CO, our burrowing owls occupy previously constructed prairie dog burrows.  In FL, they construct their own burrows.  As I’m preparing to return to visit with them again, among other things, I wanted to take a look back at images from 2017.

DSC_5147Young burrowing owls are some of the most entertaining subjects to ever photograph.  In years past, I would spend hours, many days a week, watching and shooting them (digitally of course).  Most have some the most beautiful big yellow eyes, which are incredibly captivating.DSC_5335But not all … as you can see this parent owl on the left has light brown eyes.  Both of its offspring though did have the more common tradition yellow eyes.DSC_5235The young owlets really have a sibling love for one another, though that doesn’t mean that they always play nice.  LOLDSC_5323Mom and dad always stand by, supervising when necessary, but primarily watching over the burrow for signs of trouble overhead.  With several rapid succession “barks”, they get their mate and their young into the burrow in record speed.DSC_5315The adults generally are quite tolerant of onlookers … I mean, why else would they intentionally build their burrows in highly public, quite busy places.  Over time, I’ve become quite understanding of their behaviors, sensing when my presence is not welcomed or when “close” is “close enough”, regardless of my actual distance.  To me, that’s the most important thing.  As a wildlife photographer, I want my subject to be acting totally natural and feeling quite at ease.DSC_5675In this particular burrow, the young siblings had all sorts of colors for eyes, as you can see.  It’s increasingly more common now than before to see owlets with varying degrees of dark eyes.  Believe it or not, they have their own intrigue to them.  Curious expressions are endless.DSC_5468Adult owls are not only taller and bigger than their young, but they also have more speckled feathers throughout.  You’ll notice that the owlets have that creamy colored chest and belly when they’re young.DSC_5379Most burrows have anywhere from 3-5 young ones, though they can range from 1 to 7!!  Imagine having to take care of 7 young mouths!DSC_6070You can almost always tell the younger of the bunch from the others … sometimes it’s their size or sometimes it’s their higher needs that they demand action from the parents.  LOLDSC_5574The parents go out and hunt for food in the evening or early morning hours, often caching it nearby for later retrieval and consumption.  You can always tell when the food is brought back to the burrow … as the young ones will frantically emerge and begin a tug-of-war over it.  DSC_6426They also assist in the grooming of the young ones, offering up “canoodling” sessions.  So sweet.  🙂DSC_5807When the young ones lock eyes with you, it’s so hard to look away … and why would you.  You can literally see their little minds at work.  See, for the first approximately 2 weeks of life, they remain in the safety of the burrow.  When they emerge, they are amazed at just about everything in their world.  When I see these images, I just about cry at how much I miss these sweetest of faces.DSC_6344-Edit-EditThey do everything they can to learn about everything.DSC_6263Often that includes looking up in the air too.  They detect small insects flying about, balloons in the air, planes in the sky … you name it.  They also watch other birds in the sky and quickly learn for themselves who friend and foe is.DSC_6822Yep, silly expressions are many and have made me burst into laughter on site!  LOLDSC_6876-EditI love it when they enter the flowers … OK, so they might be weeds, but the yellow in them is still pretty with their yellow eyes.DSC_6937Like our own young, the discovery of their feet and how they can control its movement is always a fun adventure for them.DSC_7011One last shot of this particularly sweet burrowing owl … really looks like it was a GQ model or something.  Oh yeah, I can’t wait to be united with these little ones…. so many new next generation owls to meet.DSC_6980I find it fascinating that when they yawn or prepare to cough up a pellet, you get this face.  Can’t help but notice how their open mouth and their beak form a heart shape … can’t think of anything more appropriate.  ❤DSC_5176Hope that everyone enjoyed my “friends”.  Be on the lookout for more images to come.

Next Up:  Carson Valley wildlife

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Owls, Owls, Everywhere

One of my favorite things to photograph in Florida are the burrowing owls.  Quite tiny, but quite social in their behavior they can entertain the viewer for hours!  Usually I stick close to home, but in 2017, I ventured out to a few new locations to photograph these cuties.  So join me as I share another set of images.  🙂

When I first arrived to this particular location, the sun was already up for a bit and the owls were quite active.  On these few days, I was treated to both the yellow and dark eyed babies.  Though yellow eyes are the most traditional, both are photogenic to me.

DSC_4413-EditDSC_5072At these burrows, there were some still in the burrows, not quite ready for “prime time”, but there were plenty of babies to keep me happy as well.  You can tell the babies by their feathers on their belly … so downy looking and creamy, they remind me of a nice drink of Kahlua!  LOL.  They are also very downy towards their legs, which remind me of petticoats or bloomers.DSC_4893They might be a bit more jumpier too and seemingly always on alert.  They scurry from burrow entrances, of which there can commonly be 2 or 3 … though sometimes simply one.DSC_4878They seem to be quite intrigued by each other and often seem to challenge each other … in a playful way, of course.DSC_4625Curiosity is never more evident than when they are quite young.  Always poking around at things they, like our own young, seem to get into everything!  I feel sometimes like I can sense their mind wheels turning as they process this world outside of the burrow, where they usually spend their first few weeks.DSC_4862Quite demanding for the attention of their mom and dad, I know that they’re looked upon as “annoying” from time to time.  Running over to an adult is common.  Squeaking and pecking at the adult is I’m sure their way of trying to communicate their needs…. Food … Comfort … Attention!DSC_4817Early on the parents will catch food for the young owls and assist in feeding them.  After some time, they still hunt for them, but they encourage independence by allowing the siblings to tear up and consume their food on their own.DSC_4813Nothing gets by these little buggers wither!  They kept constant vigil to everything going on around them.  Of course, that will serve them well as they grow up and ready for their life on their ownDSC_4980But until then, they seek more attention, food, grooming, play, etc. from their parents.DSC_4843DSC_4830Then there’s more staring down something … a sibling, an ant, a bee, an airplane, a piece of trash … doesn’t matter, they’re all of interest to this little owl.DSC_5006Of all of the entertaining things that these little ones do, NOTHING is more entertaining that the “head tilt” maneuver that they perform.  Sometimes it’s just a little one … sometimes it’s the full tilt …sometimes the body bends with it as well.  LOL.  DSC_4482Life at the burrow can be a bit boring I presume …. 😉DSC_4952Testing of the wings is another fun time while observing them.  Of course, it’s all about baby steps, but they all learn to take flight at their own pace … and in their own way.  DSC_4653Looks like this guy is ready to go … just like me.  Hope that you enjoyed the burrowing owls of Florida.  While we do have them out in Colorado, they’re not full time residents and therefore, they’re a bit more shy and secretive.  Hope to find them out there one day.

Next Up:  Let’s meet up high in the mountains

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

Reflecting 2017

Oh no … say it isn’t so … how in the world can it be 2018 already?DSC_59992017 was a year that just flew by in my opinion.  It was a year of life-changing events, full of excitement and uncertainty … but being the adventurous souls that we are, both Tom & I were up for the challenge.  Allow me to take a few moments to look back at some of our memories of 2017.IMG_3589The birds in Florida start the new year off already “in the mood” … with lots of nest building, courtship, and mating going on early on.  There’s something so very beautiful and endearing about the great blue herons at this time._DSC8566Before long, no matter the species, the new years hatchlings begin to emerge.  Nothing to me is cuter that the sandhill crane colts when only days old, especially when they climb aboard the backs of their parents for the ultimate featherbed slumber.  🙂_DSC9356-EditBlack-necked stilt babies are amost equally adorable and ready to forage on their own within hours of hatching.  That doesn’t mean that the parents can rest … far from it … their job is endless in keeping predators away from these little cuties as the begin to roam within the sandy shores and reeds of the wetlands.DSC_1923However, for me, the real stars for months of entertainment pleasure are the burrowing owls, especially when they first emerge from their burrows … all bright eyed, innocent, and exceptionally curious … they just don’t come any cuter.DSC_6282Though I tend to photograph them almost daily, they still grow up quite quickly and begin to fly about to nearby trees.DSC_0449Of course, no burrowing owl season is complete without captures of the “head tilt” that they are famous for.  LOL.DSC_6413During our time in Florida, we were fortunate to have our daughter and son-in-law, as well as our two granddoggies come visit us.  IMG_4224During 2016 and early 2017, Tom and I traveled out west to Colorado often looking for a home … perhaps a second home or not … where we could relocate to.  While south Florida is a fabulous place to be and affords much like the beaches and warm weather, Tom and I have always enjoyed the mountains, colder weather, and we were looking for less crowds and a sense of community._DSC2044-EditSo, at the end of July, Tom and several of his friends (thanks guys) loaded up the truck and off they went … go west, young man, as they say … all of the way to Colorado.IMG_4281On July 31st, my mom, her husband, my cat Buffy, and I all boarded our flight to Grand Junction airport and let’s just say that I was a ton nervous.  Safely arriving in GJT, we were picked up by Tom and driven to our new home in Fruita, CO.  IMG_4863In between unpacking what seemed like endless boxes (and truth be told they’re not all unloaded yet – yikes), I found the time to photograph different bird species in my own backyard.DSC_9576DSC_9590My mom was totally infatuated with the hummingbirds … OK, so was I … as they provided endless hours of entertainment as they flew in, and fought occasionally, at our feeders.DSC_9846Tom and I would also spend hours up on the Colorado National Monument looking for birds and wildlife, but also enjoying the spectacular views.  Being that the Monument is only 4 miles from our home, we still venture over there regularly._DSC2201-EditNow, I had always wanted to visit Mt. Evans for the mountain goats and in 2017, I finally got to realize my dream to visit there, actually get up to the top, and see them frolicking around.  See, on two previous trips, I was unable to even try due to road closures.  They are simply amazing to photograph there … in that thin, cold air too I might add._DSC2541In late September/early October, we met up with some friends and visited Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.  This year, the leaves didn’t follow the calendar precisely, but when the views are this spectacular … who cares!  The Tetons are one of those places that you could just sit and get lost in your senses, sights, thoughts, you name it.  _DSC0006-Edit-Edit-EditOf course, the Tetons are also synonymous with wildlife sightings … sometimes your sightings capture the essence of the environment and habitat as well.DSC_5086-Edit-Edit-EditThe fall colors did finally arrive in mid-October, so off we went to one of my favorite places so far, the San Juan Mountains.  The colors and views, as seen from Owl Creek Ridge, were simply breathtaking.  _DSC0217-Edit-EditNearby to Fruita is Highline Lake State Park, which also cooperated nicely with the fall transitional colors._DSC3321-EditHighline Lake SP also offers mountain biking trails, so when my daughter and her hubby came out to see us, they were shown the ropes on the trails by Tom, who totally enjoys the cycling (mountain and road) out here.IMG_5167Kelli has quite the adventurous spirit, so she took off on random dirt trails and enjoyed the view with her dog, Ridley, looking down upon the Colorado River.IMG_5371They came back and spent Thanksgiving holidays with us and knew exactly where they wanted to visit.  Yep, you guessed it, the San Juan Mountains and the town of Ouray.  We took the 4-wheel drive trails and found vast wilderness areas where the dogs could run free and play in snow patches._DSC3358It really is so beautiful out in these mountains.IMG_6689During late November through February or so, the nearby town of Delta hosts thousands of sandhill cranes.  It reminded me our days in Fairbanks watching them in huge flocks by Creamers Field.  When they fly in, overhead, or when they take off, there’s no mistaking the calls of the sandhill cranes.  It’s an instantaneous smile generator for me.  🙂DSC_7074Of course, that’s not all that congregates in the masses near Delta.  Snow geese also arrive, as well as more Canadian geese than you can imagine!DSC_8500-Edit-EditDriving around in the backcountry, you can also find many species of wildlife, such as the mule deer, elk, moose, desert bighorn sheep, black bear, coyote, bobcat, and if you’re really lucky, the elusive mountain lion.  Can’t wait to see what’s in store for us in 2018.DSC_7979In December, we met up with our good friend and headed to Moab, UT, which is just less than 90 minutes away.  He showed us phenomenal landscapes, accessed by high clearance 4WD vehicles.  The beauty of this area just simply can’t be ignored … and the view go on and on.  I know that we will be seeing a lot of Moab, Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, and the La Sal Mountains.  🙂_DSC3385-Edit_DSC3445-EditGo about 75 miles in the other direction and you land in Rifle, CO, which is where this triple waterfall can be found.
_DSC3732-EditThen one day, it finally happened, we got SNOW.  OK, so it wasn’t the 3-6 inches that we were expecting, but it was SNOW.  Later we found out that just a mile or so to the west of us, they got much more than we did.  Hopefully, we’ll get it next time.  Remember, I’m a Florida girl that loves the snow and cold.  I know, let’s see what I think next year.  LOLIMG_5837The winter views at Highline Lake SP were simply breathtaking to me._DSC3934-Edit-EditFinally Christmas arrived … and I was a bit sad … for it was my first Christmas ever without spending it with my daughter.  She was tied up being short staffed at work and couldn’t break away.  That’s OK, we’re planning on a Tahoe break with her and her hubby in January.IMG_5716On a side note, I was quite thrilled when one of my images won 2nd Place in the Defenders of Wildlife Photo Contest (Wild Lands Division) …IMG_4239… and I found out that one of my other images was honored with being the cover image for the 2017-2018 16-month calendar for Defenders of Wildlife also.  They do some amazing work, so I was quite pleased.IMG_4241Well, that pretty much does it for 2017.  That being said, I bid adieu to 2017.  It was a rollercoaster year for sure, but one that blazes the trail for an exciting ride ahead.  Remember, with each new year, is a new chapter to be written by you … make it a good one!  From all of us to you, HAPPY NEW YEAR!IMG_5455Next Up:  Close to home

© 2018  TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

A Florida Farewell

Before I take a look back at 2017 as a whole, I wanted to take the time to share some images and thoughts from my last photography outing with some of my Florida friends prior to us heading out to Colorado.

In July, Tom & I took a break from packing, boxing, and cleaning our south Florida home and made plans with a group of my friends for what would be my “farewell shoot” in 2017 from Florida.  My good friend Annette asked me where I wanted to meet up or what I wanted to photograph.  Hmmm … I wanted owls … barn owls I told her.  That being said, we made plans to meet up in Belle Glade, which is located in western Palm Beach County.    I was quite excited!

When we arrived, I ran out of the car without my gear of course, to give out some hugs to everyone only to have a BOBCAT run across the ditch right next to where we were assembling!  Dang … not one of us had our cameras out.  Reminded me of how many years ago, we all watched a bald eagle come out of nowhere and pick up a fish from the lake, right next to us.  Haha.  You think I would have learned.  However, after the excitement of the bobcat we all settled in and found a yellow-crowned night heron sitting quietly in the bushes.

DSC_8719After not immediately finding a barn owl, we decided to explore the nearby waters.  Amost immediately a tern made a splashdown on the surface.DSC_8749It then proceeded to fly away to the other side … guess it was something that we said, perhaps.DSC_9006

There were many black-necked stilts present … of varying ages … and the parents made sure that we knew they were there by calling our presence out.DSC_8794It was a community of stilts and they were in the water, on the shore, and in the air.  Many of them were going about gathering up their young. DSC_8852I have always loved the black-necked stilts.  I find them quite elegant in their stature and in their movements and as parents, they are top notch.  Love the red eye on this female.DSC_8867-Edit-EditAs I mentioned, they were quite active.DSC_8874Their young were foraging about in the shallows of the water, quite independently I might add.  Such little fluff balls for sure.  🙂  And check out those long feet!DSC_8924Sometimes they were congregated together … all set up in a row.DSC_9114We even found a few out in the grasses.DSC_9180Along the gravel road, as we traveled about, we came across what turned out to be common nighthawks.  From far away, we couldn’t tell what they were, but upon closer inspection, it was easily identifiable.  Such a beautiful bird and one that I had never photographed before, I was quite thrilled with this encounter.DSC_9102A few of them stayed on the roadside, but others flew erratically about, darting around us and eventually returning to the original spot.  I’m not sure, but I think that they had a few young ones with them, which possibly weren’t as skilled in their flight.DSC_8977-EditTom has always seen many of these on some of the “hills” of south Florida when he would fly his RC gliders, but not me.  I read a bit about them and one of the things that I found most fascinating is that they have been known to consume as many as 500 mosquitoes in a single day!  I say, let’s have  lots of these birds around … not being a fan of mosquitoes myself.DSC_9158So by now, many of you might be wondering … did you ever find the barn owls?  Of course we did!  And of course, this was mainly the view that I was afforded … LOL.  I was amazed at their size when spotted so close up.DSC_9205At one point, we spotted a hawk up in a tree (red-shouldered, I believe) as it scouted around for its next meal.  I love the look of intensity in its eye … combined with that sharp beak … you know that it means business.DSC_9259It eventually found its way to the top of the tree, and flew away after some prey.DSC_9272Upon closer inspection … Look who else was in the tree …. another beautiful barn owl!  I wonder if the hawk knew that the owl was there.  I think that the owl knew because the owl kept its eye on the hawk until its departure.  DSC_9327So in the end, yes, I did in fact get my barn owls, amongst other birds and even that bobcat sighting.  As fascinating as all of that, it was really the presence of my dear friends that made the day most special.  Thanks so much to Annette, Connie, Donnie, Ivan, and Rob for being part of Tom and I having such a wonderful day out in Belle Glade.  Thanks to Rob for taking our commemorative shot … especially with the bonus barn owl in the shed window  ;-).  Great day, fun times, amazing friends.  Until we all meet again.
IMG_0355 webFunny story too … and true one … is that when we gathered for the group shot, we wanted it to be in the shade since it was so hot and humid.  There was this giant tree to our left side and we thought that it would be a perfect spot for an owl to hang out and so we inspected it for a few moments.  No owl … or so we thought.  In fact, a barn owl flew out of the tree as we were setting up for this shot!  I think he wanted to say goodbye to me too.  ❤

Next up:  A look back at 2017 … it was a roller coaster one to say the least.

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

 

Nothing Like Young Burrowing Owls

Having a feeling that we might not be living full time in Florida next year, I made sure that I had “quality time” with my burrowing friends … the owls.  Each year, the burrows and owls are often different and this year, nothing could have been more true.  Like all wildlife, some owls are more “social” and required more personal space than others.  In Florida, they are protected and the state mandates a safe viewing distance … that being said, the best rule of thumb after that is careful observation of the owl and watching for signs of distress or changes in behavior.

Other differences easily noted are the varied eye colors.  Usually I see the normal yellow and some with darker brownish eyes, but this year it seemed that there were all the colors in between as well.  This adult had those greenish brown eyes and his mate had yellow eyes.DSC_0120This little owlet was one of their babies (of 2) and as you can clearly see, it possessed those traditional yellow eyes, as did its sibling.  These owls run a tidy ship and are frequently clearing out the opening to the burrow … sending lots of sand into the face and eyes of an onlooker.DSC_0147Even with just 2 babies, one is almost always clearly braver, or more inquisitive, than the other.  Before long, you know exactly which one you’re dealing with.DSC_0253Owls are predators and possess sharp pointed beaks and claws, along with feet that are quite strong.  Some are better hunters than others and it isn’t long before the little ones try to join in one the fun.DSC_0301The first feathers of the young owlets begin to be overtaken by more mature ones.DSC_0413While the feathers change, those big bright eyes never do.  🙂  Wonder what it’s so intent on spying in the air?  Let’s see….DSC_0454So it’s a hawk flying overhead and I as well get nervous.  Though I’ve seen it (and hope that I never will), they have been known to swoop on it and grab young birds, including these owlets.  Usually the parents are quite aware and send an instantaneous alert for everyone to go into the burrow.DSC_2254Owls can be fascinating to observe and I’ve spent many mornings or afternoons (or both) with them.  I just love it when the ruffle up their feathers … usually preceded or proceeded by a bow and a poop.DSC_0781By far, a favorite time of mine is when the little ones first discover their feet and claws.  You can literally see their wheels turning as they investigate them … they pick them up, open them, close them, sometimes even turn them upside down and eventually put them down again.  Often, they do it repeatedly.  Reminds me of our own young when they discover their toes.  🙂DSC_0472Feeding ones mate and the hungry family is a never-ending task.  Crickets or beetles are often consumed.DSC_1071Sometimes frogs are on the daily assortment and this one was obviously caught earlier and cached for the right moment.DSC_0854Lizards aren’t safe from them either.  Often the male will taken them into the burrow for its mate, even if there are no babies apparent yet.  Young ones don’t emerge from the burrow for at least 10 days, so it might be that she’s attending to them … or the eggs.DSC_1107Super special is when they’re both up and they transfer the delicacy from one to the other.  It reminds me of a Lady and the Tramp moment … only with a frog instead of a strand of spaghetti.  🙂DSC_2506I think that owls get bored easily … for sometimes they just declare “war” on anything they can get their claws on.DSC_0621At this particular site, there are others present, like these resident monk parakeets.  They’re quite beautiful and noisy when they fly by.  This one was busy grabbing twigs to reinforce or build its nest.DSC_2907Sometimes people want to know which are the babies versus the adults.  Of course, when they’re both out, it’s generally easy to ID them by size.  However, there’s another dead giveaway … well except for those “hair plug” head feathers.  If you notice the adult (in the back) had a pattern to its feathers throughout its belly, while the baby doesn’t have the striations yet.  I call this the Kahlua look (OK, maybe that’s too much info … LOL).DSC_1301These young owlets are nothing if not curious … and they display all sorts of head angles when they’re trying to figure something out.DSC_3132Of course, the family unit shot is highly desired, but just like our own group shots, it’s difficult to get them all cooperate at the same time … let alone smile.  🙂DSC_1348When the kids are safe in the burrow, the parents take a few moments for themselves with some mutual grooming and “canoodling”  (OK, so I guess that’s a made up word).DSC_2673Not sure what was going on here, but this male must have been in trouble and offering some sort of peace offering to its mate.  “OK, will you forgive me if I share this mouse with you?”DSC_3858“If not, I’ll just eat it myself”.DSC_3979From an early age the owlets learn to recognize threats from above.DSC_0214This time, a red-tailed hawk.  DSC_3370No worry though from this parent … no alarm call for cover … just a stare down.  I wonder why?DSC_1266Owls have much better eyesight than humans and upon careful inspection in the viewfinder, I see why.  See, this red-tailed hawk already has snatched a poor unfortunate baby bird for its dinner.  (OK, I secretly hate this side of nature, but hawks have to eat too.)DSC_3370-2So the socializing above the burrow continues.  Dad soon takes flight not far from where I was photographing and I wondered why.DSC_3243I noticed that before long it flew, with great difficulty, back to the burrow.  Then I saw it … it had a bird of its own.  To this day, I’ve never seen one with a bird before.   I guess owls have to eat too. (no, not again) DSC_3566So my next favorite time with these young owlets is when they learn to use their wings to make short flights around the burrow.  This one was quite happy and worked hard to impress its sibling and dad.DSC_3686-Edit“Look what I can do!”DSC_3685-EditDSC_3687-EditDSC_3692Meanwhile at another burrow, the youngs ones were just beginning to emerge.  This time, both parents were yellow-eyed and the babies ran the gambit of eye color.  There was some discrepancy about this burrow too, as some say the pair might have changed after the new ones were hatched.DSC_2602DSC_4079So, that’s this installment of the burrowing owls of south Florida for 2017.  Lots more images to share, so stay tuned.  I mean, how could you not with these eyes?  🙂DSC_2756Next up:  A return to the wetlands

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

It’s Owl Time Again!

One of my favorite times of the year in south Florida was always the spring for numerous reasons.  One of the main reasons though is the activity of the burrows.  I begin to check the landscape for locating burrows for some of south Florida’s famous residents … the burrowing owls. DSC_6149-2 Of course, I anxiously await the arrival of the the year’s newest batch of adorable owlets, but in the meanwhile there’s always lots of feeding going on, since the owl moms spend lots of time in the burrows at this time, taking care of the eggs or newly hatched babies.  That means “special delivery” of food by the male parent.  DSC_6790-2Dining options vary from mice, rats, frogs, lizards, caterpillars, beetles, worms, and even baby birds.  DSC_6138-Edit-Edit-2These burrowing owls possess powerful feet, sharp claws, and piercing beaks that all prove useful in securing and devouring their prey.DSC_6257-Edit-2After some time, the days of “on patrol” visiting prove worth it, as we get our first glimpse of one of the newborn owlets.  Actually, at this point the owlets are about 10-14 days old when they first emerge out of the burrow.  As much of a thrill it is for me to see them, can you imagine how amazed they are when they get their first glimpse of their new world outside the confines of the burrow?  The word bewildered comes to mind when I observe their expressions.DSC_6282-2Whenever one of the owlets are near the entrance to the burrow, the parents are on patrol and ready to send out an alarm when needed in order to insure their safety.DSC_7421-2They remain on duty no matter the weather … sunshine or rain … and they stay vigilent.DSC_7468-2As fascinating as the owls are in general, I find them most interesting when they’re wet … the textures of their feathers are so interesting to me.  One of the most intriguing things I find with these owls, as with all species of owls, are their eyes.  Whether yellow, brown, or believe it or not even a mix of the two (yes, I have seen that!), their eyes captivate me and I find it hard to disengage my stare.DSC_7818-Edit-2Of course, there’s more feeding going on all of the time.  This year, one particular burrow male was quite the productive hunter.  During dusk and dawn, as well as the darkness of the night, this little guy was relentless in his stalking of its prey.  Most times, he would cache his food for the next day and methodically retrieve it as needed.DSC_7650-2Little bugs go down easy, but sometimes dinner is more of a challenge to get down the hatch.  I suppose he knows nothing about the whereabouts of that frog.  Nothing like a “frog leg mustache”.  LOLDSC_7943-2Once he would get his fill, he would then march on over to his mate, in the burrow.  Sometimes, she would meet him at the entrance and grab the delicacy and return to the burrow … other times he would descend into the burrow with it … and even other times they would dine together above ground.DSC_8206-Edit-2In the spring, rain showers are often present in the afternoons, and I would get lots of rained upon owls (to my delight … though I don’t think this owl was too pleased).DSC_8057-2Often they would shake off the excess water from their feathers which was always fun to photograph them get all fluffed up.DSC_8088-2They would then try to dry off their feathers as well by grooming … showing off their ability to twist their neck into many directions and angles.DSC_8091-2The loving burrowing owls often exhibit their love via mutual grooming and what I can only describe as “canoodling”.DSC_8392-2Eventually 2 very young owlets emerged … both in their “hair plug” stage … so very curious about EVERYTHING in their new world and soaking it all up.DSC_8666-2When there are owlets, there must be food provided to them … this time some grubs for the young ….DSC_8974-2…. while the parents would share an unfortunate frog.DSC_9235-2Of course, the affection was also shared with the baby owls as well.  That being said, this little owlet couldn’t take his eyes off the lens of the camera.  LOLDSC_9345-2Well, that is until it was being offered some food.  It’s amazing how they get around on their wobbly legs.  Such a thrill to witness them growing up before your eyes.DSC_9368-2Like I said … there was never a shortage of food this year.  This owl had a worm longer than he was!
DSC_0038-2The relationship between the adults and their babies are close knit, loving, and patient, and the young owlets love nothing more than to be in the shadow of one of their parents, knowing full well they would be protected from harm.DSC_0074-2I spent a lot of time with the burrowing owls in 2017, so be prepared for lots of images shared.  I mean, how could I not with adorable looks like this one?  Come on now … doesn’t it look like it’s smiling?  ❤DSC_9160-2Next up:  Let’s not forget about Colorado  🙂

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

A New Year For The Burrowing Owls

Most everybody who knows me, is keenly aware that bears of all species are my favorite thing to photograph and spend time with.  Bears though, while not impossible to find in Florida, are not everyday subjects.  Lucky for me, owls are my next favorite subject and in Florida we’re fortunate to have several different species including the eastern screech,  great horned, barred, barn, and one of my personal favorites … the burrowing owl.  As in years past, I have been spending a lot of time with them, so if you like them like I do, get ready for several blog posts featuring these entertaining, expressive creatures.  🙂DSC_5965-EditIn Florida, the mating season begins sometime around February.  While full time residents of Florida, the fun with them usually begins at that time … and when their owlets first emerge from the safety of the burrow at about 2 weeks of age.  For the purpose of this first blog, these images are all adult owls, mostly just prior to mating for the season.  DSC_6332The burrowing owl is one of the smallest owls in Florida, standing about 9 inches tall with a wingspan of about 21 inches.  They lack ear tufts that some owls possess and as their name suggests, they live in established burrows in the ground.  Those burrows can be quite intricate too … with burrow tunnels reaching lengths of several feet.  They normally have bright yellow eyes, though in Florida it’s not unusual to have dark brown, light brown, or even olive green eyes.  As you can see in the image below, this couple illustrates the varied eye color.DSC_5858Their scientific name, Athene cunicularia, translates to mean “little digger” and it’s easy to see why … they are effective diggers and are often seen digging out the sand in the burrows.  Often the owls become unknown recipients of all of that sand and dirt.  LOLDSC_6184Burrowing owls in Florida are listed as a State Threatened species by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, thus are under much protection.  Therefore “taking, possessing, or selling burrowing owls, their nests (i.e., burrows), or eggs is prohibited without a permit (68A-27 F.A.C.)”.  Burrowing owls, eggs, and young are also protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Usually in the winter, they begin to pair up at various burrows.  Sometimes I know that it’s the same owls at the same burrow … sometimes a new partner will show up … sometimes it’s an entirely new couple.DSC_2858Either way, the behavior is the same.  Burrowing owls keep keen eyes on the skies above for potential predators or threats.  It’s amazing to me how they can perceive things long before I ever get the tiniest glimpse.DSC_2845The couples are actually quite affectionate together and offer food to one another …DSC_2884… and often nuzzle together as they pass the time together. DSC_2897Solitary and mutual grooming is part of the ritual too.  🙂DSC_2895Then there’s more of what seems to be an endless chore of housekeeping, and all of that flying dirt.  LOLDSC_2939I hope that you enjoyed the blog and will be back soon when the blog carries on with images and stories of the real stars … the new installment of this years baby owlets … with their downy fur, “hair plugs”, and clumsy ways.  They are the perfect way for me to pass the day … and they’re never short on expressions, attitudes, and fun!DSC_2955

Next Up:  My next favorite subject …. hmmm … what could it be?  Check in to find out!

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com