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

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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

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

2016 … Looking Back Within Florida

Happy 2017 everyone!

As they say … “out with the old and in with the new”… but before that, I always like to take the time to reflect upon the past year.  To me, it’s all about looking back on where I’m been (mentally and physically), lessons learned, and adventures experienced.  Those reflections serve as the framework for my goals and direction for the new year.  So, grab yourself a drink, get comfy, and take a ride through 2016 with me.  🙂_dsc1983I think that 2016 can be summed up as near and far … usual versus unusual.  Let’s begin with the “near and new”.  Sounds like a Jeopardy category, doesn’t it?  Everyone knows that I live in Florida, and have most of my life, but that doesn’t mean that experiences can’t be new.

OK, I know you’re wondering “what’s so new about sandhill cranes”?  Well, of course I love them, especially those colts, which are their babies.  They are so darned curious and adorable.  Each one has its own personality … just like us.
_DSC8395While this is a typical image of the young colts being fed delicacies by their parents …_DSC0756-2…getting a shot of them precisely at the moment that one has just fallen face first into the muck is not.  To this day, when I look at this image, I find myself laughing.  Poor thing looks so indignant, while its sibling looks on.
_DSC9214-2When these colts are very young, they often can be found snuggled up into their mom or dad’s feathers for protection and warmth.  However, these two are getting big now, but that didn’t stop them from trying to snuggle in as well._DSC1807-2While I have other images from earlier years of our wood storks, I don’t think that I’ve ever captured one with the parents in courtship mode.  Don’t they look so happy?  _DSC3707For the first time in 2016, I was able to capture the courtship and nesting of the little blue herons.
_DSC4696Of course, when a bird flies in and perches on top of the trees, it’s a great photo op, but when the sky looks like a pastel colored canvas, it’s super special.DSC_0610Though many times I’ve seen painted buntings, this was the first time that I actually got a shot that I was pleased with.  Gosh, they are so incredibly beautiful._DSC5537Look out … it’s burrowing owl season again … where these captivating owls capture my attention in a way that few other birds can.  To say that I love with owls, is probably a bit of an understatement.  It’s more like an obsession._DSC3139Over the last 5 years or so, I’ve spend MANY hours with them, yet this guy managed to catch me by surprise as he jumped towards me on his way to returning to the burrow._DSC5274Tender moments such as the sharing of food during courtship seemed to be my focal point in 2016.  The behavioral aspect of photographing these owls fascinate me to no end._DSC4945Probably one of my unique experiences with owls this year came to me via a phone call.  A neighbor found this “bird” that he wasn’t sure what to do with … nor did he know what it was.  When I arrived, this is what a saw …FullSizeRender-1Of course, it was a very young eastern screech owl, which had inadvertently fallen out of its cavity nest.  Tom was able to find the nest and placed the baby owl back into it … with the mom sleeping inside!  This pair of owls was well known to us, as they had 3 owlets 2 years earlier in our yard._DSC9055I was honored to be able to follow this little owl from being a little fuzz ball … to being lost in the nest cavity … to barely being able to fit._DSC9095It was a proud day when it finally fledged … this being the last image I captured before it did.  I was so happy that we played a role in insuring the safety of this little one.  So cute!_DSC9327Trips out to see the activities of the nesting osprey were carried out, as in past years._DSC5624Usually I get solo shots, but this time many chase scenes ensued and it was a thrill to witness the calling out and acrobatic flying of these two osprey._DSC6375Swallow-tailed kites by the half dozen or so are the norm for me, but this year I got to photograph them by the hundreds!  It was so unreal to watch them as they roosted in great numbers, then swooped over the surface of the water to drink and clean themselves.dsc_7010Florida boosts another amazing owl, the Barred Owl, which has the most soulful eyes imaginable … I always find it hard to look away._dsc7785This year I got to observe some very cool behavioral displays, including this osprey who had just flown in with a fish, but was totally fending off its mate from joining in on the feast.  LOLdsc_2306This guy also gave me a unique shot … as it tried to dry off its wings from a recent sun shower.  Looks like it was meditating or saying grace.  For some reason, I really love this one.dsc_3206In 2016, white crowned pigeons became listed as threatened in the state of Florida, so it was appropriate that I was able to grab some nice images of them.  That was a first for me, though I do possess some really crappy ones from my very first encounter. 😉dsc_3767Kingfishers are probably a bird considered by many to be a nemesis … for they are so sketchy and flighty and rarely pause for an image.  This beauty was captured while preening herself.dsc_6987Speaking of endangered birds, this snail kite was successfully photographed one day while out in central Florida.  Love that red eye … no need to correct for that kind of “red eye”.  dsc_4930Of course, bald eagles are always a special sighting and I’m fortunate enough to have experienced many sightings and captured images, but this one is special.  I think it’s the topside, wings down position that I find so appealing.   What do you think?dsc_9556Yes, though I live in Florida and have for many years, it’s still fascinating and “new” images, birds, and behaviors can be witnessed.  Yes, the sun might be going down on this blog post (sorry for it being so lengthy), but there’s more to highlight in 2016._dsc5182I leave everyone with one final Florida image … that of the boat basis at the Deering Estate in south Florida.  So unique and beautiful … when shooting there, you never want to leave._dsc0945Next Up:  The “Far” of 2016

© 2016 TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Revisiting Friends … Burrowing Owls, that is

The burrowing owl is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act and as a State Species of Special Concern by Florida’s Endangered & Threatened Species Rule.  They are “highly vulnerable” to becoming a threatened species by loss of habitat and thus in Florida, it’s illegal to harass or harm them, their nests, or their eggs.  I’ve been told that over the past few years, the public, including some photographers, reportedly have taken perhaps a bit too much liberty with them, which resulted in these signs being displayed at most of the burrows, which happen to be in heavily used county parks.  While I applaud the attempt to educate those who might not know better, I think that these signs (which are quite small) might actually encourage people to get close … in order to read these tiny notices. In addition, they tend to flap around in the wind, which also disturbs the owls.   Is it just me or what?DSC_5728So that being said … let’s all enjoy them from afar and know that when an owl bobs its head up and down at you or lets out an alert call when you’re present, you’re obviously disturbing them and need to give them their space.  Again, whether observing or photographing the owls, the goal should be to get them acting naturally.  Enough said.  🙂

Speaking of acting naturally, please note that this owl hasn’t been fed by humans, but rather has retrieved its prey from its hunting (usually at night or before dawn or after dusk) earlier.  They kill and cache it, like other predators do, and as you can see, this frog is covered in sand._DSC9194This owl is quite the hunter too.  It tries to offer the frog to its mate, who shows no sign of interest in taking it._DSC9201So the owl begins to consume it himself._DSC9172_DSC9192Once partially torn into and consumed, the owl tries again to offer it to its mate, but again she’s not interested._DSC9198What’s an owl to do?_DSC9212Is she just playing hard to get?_DSC9205Well, let’s try a lizard … maybe that will do it.  But no, she didn’t want that either!_DSC9218Eventually, after several visits to the burrow, this years baby owls start to appear.  Usually when I first see them, they still are in that “hair plug” stage, but these guys seem to be a few weeks out of that stage.DSC_5699Even at a young age, they learn to watch the skies overhead.DSC_5725At first, I just saw one young owl, which made me flash back to that hawk Tom & I had seen a few weeks ago.  But then a second appeared.DSC_5730There’s always one that’s more curious and brave than the other.  LOLDSC_5734Eventually, they both begin to feel comfortable with my presence and the animation begins.  🙂DSC_5769I just adore the young owlets and their fluffy belly feathers and those downy looking “petticoats” are priceless.DSC_5821The sun highlights their eyes, which are so big and focused on their surroundings.  DSC_5944DSC_6012At one point, 3 owlets appeared, which makes it more fun due to the interaction between them.  This owlet decided to strike a submissive pose when playing with the others.  So darned cute!DSC_6134More overhead scanning … a never-ending activity … for those owls and owlets that want to increase their odds of survival.DSC_6154More playing … a favorite part of their day I’m sure … as well as for the observers.DSC_6316Well, go to go today, but not before I say goodbye to these 3 cuties.  As you can tell, they all have their personalities, appearances, and unique traits.  However, they are all precious.  I wish them well.  As Arnold says … “I’ll be back”.  DSC_5973

Next up:  Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

© 2016  TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

All Eyes on the Burrowing Owls

For many years now, I’ve been heading out to hang out with the burrowing owls and of course, take a few images along the way.  🙂  In all honesty though, often I would just go and sit nearby them and observe them being owls … and laugh at their silly antics and expressions.  In 2016, it was no different.  Well, except for one thing.  When I arrived, I expected to see perhaps a few very young owlets.  However I was greeted by this ….

_DSC1267So the owl on the right was as full grown as the one on the left, though still had some of those “juvenile or sub-adult” feathers.  What?  This couldn’t possibly be a 2016 baby … it was too big already.  Then I remembered a very small owlet last year who possessed these lighter brown eyes.  It was the last born of his siblings and hence was quite tiny compared to the others.  Could this still be him (or her)?  Am I witnessing a “failure to launch” owlet?  The 2 parents at that burrow were definitely the same ones from last year.  One with yellow eyes, the other with brown eyes._DSC1264I was so intrigued by this finding, that I could barely pick up the camera to capture images!_DSC1289Its size was about the same as the parents, but its behavior was still playful.  As hard as I tried to get them to explain what was going on … they just stared._DSC1314_DSC1394Other owls were paired up in their burrows, as they kept a watchful eye out for overhead predators.  _DSC1474Over the first few weeks that I visited, I would find new burrows springing up that hadn’t been there in years past._DSC3186Obviously, by the look of things, “groundbreaking” and “renovating” was still quite actively going on._DSC3192This poor owl looks like it has had enough already of the flying sand being tossed about them._DSC3204_DSC3235As i mentioned earlier, these owls spend a lot of time scouting out the skies above.  They are totally fascinated by flying insects, resident parrots, flying planes, helicopters, blimps, and even balloons hold their attention for quite some time.  So cute to watch as they track the action.  Of course, they spend most of their time on the lookout for predators.  Not too far away is a family of red-tailed hawks and of course, red-shouldered hawks are always a threat.  One particular morning, Tom & I were at one of the burrows and a hawk flew right into the tree closest to the burrow we were at.  I was fearful that we would watch carnage, though once the hawks are anywhere near, those owls get into their burrows faster than you can imagine!  _DSC3139These adorable burrowing owls are predators themselves though and no frog, lizard, caterpillar or other delicacy is safe from being served up on their buffet line._DSC4927While these owls are primarily nocturnal hunters, they often recover their cache and dine during the daytime.  As you can see, this unfortunate frog is quite covered in sand after being retrieved from nearby._DSC4929It’s amazing to watch the dexterity the owls possess in handling their catch._DSC4934Sometimes they tore into them right away, other times they seemed to just toy with them a bit.  Especially now, during breeding season, they are an important part of the daily routine.  This one seems quite pleased with its catch, don’t you think?_DSC4942After posing so nicely for the camera, he took it over to the female at the burrow and offered it up to her.  In this case, she gladly accepted.  _DSC4945She then paraded around quite a bit with it, finally stashing it into the burrow for later consumption._DSC4950_DSC5001I always love it when they fly into the nearby trees for a shady break from the hot sandy burrows.  _DSC5020Getting back to my possible “Failure to launch” owl, a few weeks after my first visit, I noticed that it was no longer at its original burrow.  Oh no, I hoped that nothing had happened to it.  I waited patiently for it to emerge, but to no avail.  Then as I scanned the landscape from a low perspective, I caught a glimpse of yet another freshly dug burrow, not far away.  I went over to investigate and sure enough, there it was, with another owl.  Did it finally launch?  I mean … 3 was definitely a crowd, as they say.  I noticed that it also had tufts of feathers missing on front of its neck and a would under its eye.  Maybe the parents had to make it leave or maybe it had a close call with a predator.  Unfortunately, I will never know.  However, I was happy to see it._DSC5118Such a darn cutie with those unusual browner eyes.  This year, I noticed just a few of them with brown eyes, while last year there were several.  One even had one yellow eye and a brown eye!  Now that I mention it, I haven’t seen that one this year, but I do know that other owls have taken over that particular burrow._DSC5173I just love it when they look up a bit from the burrow and the light catches their eyes perfectly and really lights them up.  So, do you wonder why this one is looking so bright eyed and wide-eyed?_DSC5234Incoming burrowing owl! … OK, maybe not the reason for that hypnotic stare.  This owl was hysterical though in the way that its behavior was so erratic and quick.  It literally ran out from the burrow about 30 feet or so, surveyed the area left and right, turned abruptly around, and jumped!  Then it proceeded to land and run frantically the rest of the way back to the burrow.  _DSC5274Such silly owls they are … always displaying silly antics and even more silly expressions … which leave me in stitches on more than one occasion … each visit that is.  🙂_DSC5222

I hope that you’ve enjoyed the burrowing owls so far.  Rest assured, there will be more coming up in a few weeks.

Next up:  More images and stories from the rookeries.  Stay tuned.

© 2016  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

A Burrowing Owl Encore!

It’s been some time since the last burrowing owl post and there’s so many images from 2015, so I though that I would share a few more and give some final thoughts on them as well.

I just love it when they are perched on something which offers me an interesting background, especially when I can produce a bokeh which adds to the shot.  The blue sky is perfect when filtered through the leaves of a nearby tree.

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Though these are siblings, they have very different eye colors.  Both are quite beautiful.  the yellow ones are piercing when the sunlight casts itself on them just so, but the brownish yellow are so different that I find it hard to look away.  Either way, I love them both!

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Yes, they sure love to launch themselves into flight, as well as jumping around quite a bit.  I just LOVE when they focus on their landings … eyes on the prize and talons out ready for the grab.

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They run from burrow to burrow when they have more than one entrance to home.

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To me, the main thing that I want the owls to do while I’m photographing them is to act natural and do the things that owls do.  I don’t want them to be preoccupied by my presence.  I prefer to see the eyes, even if just caught through the feathers of its wings.

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A favorite activity for these owls was the “attack” and wrestling of each other … reminded me of a worldwide wrestling event.  LOL

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These burrowing owls are very social with each other and they “kiss”, groom, and “canoodle” each other quite often.  Looks so sweet.  🙂

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Of course, they shed their feathers on occasion, which totally becomes a favorite “toy” to play with.

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So is flying around the burrow, landing on perches, etc.  This year was unusual because in years past, I had seen the owls hunting a bit and feeding, but I saw none of that this year.  Of course, they were well fed and would expel their pellets (remnants of their undigested material) quite frequently.  🙂

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In this particular burrow, sometimes the perch became quite crowded!

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These owls are pretty much busy all day, and they get tired just like we do.  Like some people, some could almost fall asleep anywhere!  LOL

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Can’t wait to see what 2016 holds in regards to photographing the owls of south Florida!  I hope that you enjoyed them as much as I did.  🙂

Next Up:  Let’s go back to ALASKA!!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography