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

Guaranteed to Make You Smile!

Yes, it’s time for more burrowing owls!  Being that I spend so much time with them … and they never fail to bring a smile to my face … I had to get in another blog post with them as the stars.  🙂

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These little ones are simply the most expressive owls that you can imagine.  Those piercing yellow eyes and that stare that goes on and on.  As far as a staring contest, they always win hands down.

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Very curious about the world around them, they cautiously make their way on occasions outside the confines of their roped off boundary to their burrow.  Being a protected species, it’s easy to find these burrows, as generally they are roped off for identification.  These particular ones are in a very active county park, so it’s important to know where they are … especially when the grounds keeper begins to mow their area!

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This is how they look when they hear the sound of the mower coming their way … LOL … of course, I’m just kidding about that.

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So social is their nature that they often try to perch on the same stake, rope, perch, or branch.

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My favorite feature of the young ones is all of that wispy downy feathers around their “petticoat” area.  LOL.  That, and the color of their bellies … reminds me of Kahlua!

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This one was stalking something, but from our vantage point, we couldn’t see what it was at first.

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Then we saw it trying to right itself – one of its burrow mates had been in that submissive position near the entrance of the burrow.

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Learning new things all of the time, like how to navigate a new branch.  I can’t help but think of tightrope walkers when I see them do this.

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Old Twinkle Toes this one is as it flaps its wings and begins to fly off of its perch.  As you can see, the entire time it’s so concentrating on the task at hand.  Like our own little babies, always learning something new and processing that information.

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Up …. and … down

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It also enjoys a good game of Limbo too.

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When all else fails, there’s always the old biting on one of its brothers or sisters.

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As I think back at all of the good times I’ve shared while observing the owls I can’t help but smile all over again.  🙂

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Next up:  Continuing on to Salt Lake City and Park City for the cycling adventure!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photogaphy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

The Owls of the Burrow

Hello again … returning to the burrowing owls … my feathered friends of the spring season which I always look forward to capturing images of each year.

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Exploration of the world around them is always fascinating to watch when I visit them.  They encounter flowers, small crawling insects, many flying bees and dragonflies, a bit of trash that found its way towards the burrow, and the attention of onlookers.

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Their curiosity is just through the roof … much like our own young, they find everything and anything, and MUST pick it up to investigate it further.  🙂

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Not all burrowing owls have those bright yellow eyes that they are so famous for.  This particular burrow last year, with the same parents, produced several with yellow eyes and several with very dark eyes.  Those parents this year had primarily lighter eyed owlets, with the color below being one of the darker ones.

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Life around the burrow is quite an active one, especially when the young ones are still learning to navigate themselves in flight.  When they’re not flying overhead or low to the grasses, they often hop around in short burst jumps.

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They are so beautiful in flight, though most times it’s hard to get their faces not shrouded by their beautiful wings in flight.

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Oops, looks like this one has just spotted something flying overhead.

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How about a game of peekaboo?  They just have endless things to do and an endless array of expressions.  🙂

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Of course, there’s always time for a little bit of mutual grooming and “kissing”.  They really seem to enjoy it.

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Before long, they’re flying about again.  I absolutely adore the way that they land with those talons ready for the grab.  Look at that concentration on its face as well.

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This one must have been studying some magic, as it seems to be levitating above the branch while perched with it sibling.  LOL

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A topside view of the owl in flight shows off its beautiful markings in its feathers, wingspan, and beautiful face.  Gosh, I love those birds!

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Then it’s back to those inquisitive stares.

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All fluffed up are you?  Well, if you haven’t spent some time with burrowing owls yet, be sure to make it a plan to do so.  You’ll be glad that you did!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

It’s That Time Again …. !

One of the things that I love most living in south Florida is our availability of burrowing owls to photograph.  They are year-round residents, but my favorite time of year is in the spring of course.  That’s when the baby owlets begin to emerge out of their burrows for the first time.  🙂

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They are hysterical to observe as they very timidly peek outside at the world around them. They are so curious at just about everything going on “above ground”, for the first few weeks they were nurtured within the protection of the underground burrow … safe from the predators and the elements.  When first introduced to their new life outside, they tend to stay huddled together.

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Just how cute are they?  This is the stage that I affectionately refer to as the “hair plug stage”  (sorry guys).  LOL

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While the babies remain close to the burrow, the dad usually ventures out to hunt for food in the early morning or late evening.  You can tell the adult by the speckled pattern on the underside, while the babies possess that mocha colored downy look.

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While the young ones stand vigil at the entrance to the burrow, already with a keen eye for what’s going on in their surroundings.  But as with anything else, there’s always one that gets easily distracted.

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The adults are extremely protective of their young and will observe the overhead skies for any signs of a potential threat or predator.  One quick bark from either mom or dad and those owlets retreat in almost a blink of an eye.  Very early on too, they learn to begin to scan the skies themselves.

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In south Florida, the majority of the threats come from red-shouldered hawks, though a handful of red-tailed hawks also circle overhead looking for a meal.

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These owls are also quite expressive and have a never-ending array of “looks”.                   There’s the surprised look ….

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The caught in the act look ….

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Everyone’s favorite though is always the curiosity look, with the head cocked over to one side, sometimes even almost totally upside down.  LOL

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After not too much time they learn to fly, which is absolutely by far my favorite time.  You can just see their minds at work, trying to calculate that perfect plan for flight.  Usually they start off perfecting the lowest perch-able item around, most often the stake that usually is present to identify the burrow.

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Sometimes there’s a nearby perch which can be used as their next step.  I just love how they always stop and size up their next step.  On a side note, look at those wonderful downy under feathers, or what I call, the “petticoat”.  So adorable.

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No test though is more fun to watch as the rope landing.  Of course, that rope is not the most secured nor stable landing, so when they land and begin to pull in their wings, they wobble … back & forth, over and over.  Eventually they perfect that balancing act.

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Then there’s playtime … so entertaining.  Again, you can watch the “attack scheming” in action play out.  Usually one plays a more dominant role, while the other performs a more submissive behavior.

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Eventually they break it up, but not before the fun watching the one on its back squirm around trying to right itself again.

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Yes, the burrowing owls are a real “hoot” to photograph.  So take a bow for your audience young owl, but don’t think that this is the end of my time with you.  The season is young and lots more visits loom ahead.

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Next up:  More burrowing owls

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

Today’s blog will finish my Burrowing Owl series – at least for now.  See, they’re all still at the burrows, so …. you just never know.  🙂

"Hey ... is that you again?"

“Hey … is that you again?”

When I returned to the burrows, after my 2-week hiatus, I was quite excited to see that everyone was fine and progressing along splendid.

Several "gang" members - safe & sound  :-)

Several “gang” members – safe & sound 🙂

The gang was flying around …

Showing off its skills by flying around and around - in and out of the trees

Showing off its skills by flying around and around – in and out of the trees

… perfecting their balance skills …

"You're not supposed to land on each other!"

“You’re not supposed to land on each other!”

… hanging out in the nearby trees, even ones a bit further away

Height was soon not a factor in the trees

Height was soon not a factor in the trees

Yes, even after I stressed about them when we had over 14 inches on rain over a 24-hour period and I feared for their survival, of course, nature has a way of making it all work out for them.  🙂  Thank goodness!

The gang was all accounted for!

Of course, it wasn’t always only the burrowing owls that came around while I was photographing.

There were parrots flying around freely

There were parrots flying around freely

Who could forget our resident friendly squirrel

Who could forget our resident friendly squirrel

Activity level was at a high for awhile …

Playtime has never ceased with these guys!

Playtime has never ceased with these guys!

However, over time, the activity level, though still active, became more and more unpredictable.  In short, it became that much harder to photograph them in their flight activities since they were so confident in their abilities, that they no longer took the time to size up their next move …. and give you a “heads up” for capturing the moment.

Sizing up the leap to the top of the perch!

Sizing up the leap to the top of the perch!

Eventually, I found myself more and more, just going out there to spend time with them.

My "friends"

My “friends”

I became a bit mesmerized with their amazing eyes – so bright, big, and yellow!

Such beautiful eyes that captivate the photographer

Such beautiful eyes that captivate the photographer

A bit excited, don't you think?

A bit excited, don’t you think?

I would simply sit back and watch them – often, as they watched me.

Peeking at me with the same interest that I was peeking at them with.  :-)

Peeking at me with the same interest that I was peeking at them with. 🙂

I know that it sounds a bit bizarre, but I know that they knew me, felt comfortable around me, if you will.

Just can't get enough of these guys!

Just can’t get enough of these guys!

The last time I was out there, they were all out in force… all accounted for.  I said my goodbyes to them, just in case I didn’t see some of them again.  See, they should be getting ready to “flee the burrow” soon.

"What did you say?"

“What did you say?”

I especially gave a special farewell to Peanut.  After all, Peanut was the one that would make me smile most of all.  🙂

Peanut and one of its parents

Peanut and one of its parents

Such a gorgeous specimen

Such a gorgeous specimen

I then thanked the parents for their patience with my presence for the last 3 months and reflected on how I had grown to admire them so much.

One of the pair of burrowing owl parents at Brian Piccolo Park

One of the pair of burrowing owl parents at Brian Piccolo Park

Burrowing owls become of reproductive age in 1 year, so I wonder who I will visit with their babies next year… and I can’t wait!  🙂

The Burrowing Owls Saga Continues ….. :-)

Another in the series of the Burrowing Owl blog posts …..

Gaining confidence in its flying abilities

Gaining confidence in its flying abilities

Activity around the burrow was growing increasingly active, as the owls were learning new things, gaining new skills, perfecting their moves, and overall advancing into their juvenile stage.

"I've got style ... I've got grace!"

“I’ve got style … I’ve got grace!”

Working on carrying and flying!

Working on carrying and flying!

Often we would see them out and about within the burrow, as well as some of the surrounding areas, not just within the ropes, but bravely beginning to explore the areas just beyond them.

It’s often fun and games at the burrow with the young owls

They would take turns occupying the 4 stakes which marked their burrow’s location and boundaries and at times, would walk the ropes that draped from each of them.

Up on a tightrope!

Up on a tightrope!

The ropes were always the most entertaining, since they required the most skill in terms of balance.

Working on their balance moves

Working on their balance moves

They continued to play with each other, sometimes nicely, sometimes rough, around their burrow.

"It's not what it looks like .... we're just playing"  LOL

“It’s not what it looks like …. we’re just playing” LOL

Sometimes one of the parents would have ENOUGH and gently peck at one of the babies.  Never would know it, since this one played it for all that it was worth!

"Help!  I've fallen ... and I can't get up!"  :-) (until it realized no one cared that it was carrying on .... does anyone see the similarities with their own children?)

“Help! I’ve fallen … and I can’t get up!” 🙂
(until it realized no one cared that it was carrying on …. does anyone see the similarities with their own children?)

Even within the young siblings, there was still a well established pecking order and certain ones were definitely more submissive than others.

"You might trump him, but I trump you!"

“You might trump him, but I trump you!”

Often they would also be found in what I would describe a snuggle-like position.  That would normally be while they were at rest.  🙂

Snuggle-Time  :-)  So sweet!

Snuggle-Time 🙂 So sweet!

They would often begin to get tired in the heat of the afternoon … oh, how I could relate to that.  They would take the time to “owl-nap” and stretch their wings independently.

S-T-R-E-T-C-H!

S-T-R-E-T-C-H!

Sometimes, they would also stretch their wings backwards, but I would like to think that they were actually taking a bow for some spectacular activity they had just accomplished.

Taking a Bow

Taking a Bow

Flights around the burrow became longer and they began to venture off into the nearby trees – that just not that long ago were reserved for mom & dad, when they flew off on a much needed break from the young ones.

"Wow!  This is nice and cool up here."

“Wow! This is nice and cool up here.”

There's no privacy from the paparazzi!

There’s no privacy from the paparazzi!

They also began to hunt for their own food – or at least “attack” things, real of not real, in the grasses that they lived amongst.  Sometimes though, the parents still rang the dinner bell for them.

Anyone for frog legs?

Anyone for frog legs?

During this time, I had to leave them for 2 weeks while I ventured off to Charlotte and also the Pacific Northwest.  While I was glad to be traveling and getting a break from the south Florida heat and humidity, it was with mixed emotions.  I hoped that they would be OK while I was gone and anxiously awaited seeing them again.

All lined up at the burrow

All lined up at the burrow

Hang in there Peanut!

Hang in there Peanut!

More burrowing owl images and the stories behind them are still coming.  Check back soon.  🙂

Growing Up with the Burrowing Owls

Howdy!

Howdy!

Continuing on with some of my thoughts and experiences during my 3 month long journey of observing the burrowing owls of Brian Piccolo Park in Cooper City, Florida.

“She’s back Mama”

There are numerous burrows with babies in the area.  It’s funny how each advances with their babies at their own pace.  At first, it was one of two burrows whom had babies taking a peek out of their burrow at their new surroundings.  Before long, there were many.  It really made it that much more fun for I could alternate which burrows I was following.  Each burrow though was very different and the parents had different human tolerance boundaries and we quickly learned them.  The last thing that I wanted to do was to alter their normal behavior … that would defeat the whole purpose.

More playing around the burrow

More playing around the burrow

The burrow that ended up having the most babies survive finally began to emerge and how adorable they were – all 6 of them!  As I said before, each owlet is born independently and therefore were at different stages of development.

Varying ages of this burrowing owl family are represented here

Varying ages of this burrowing owl family are represented here

Feeding of the young would continue with what I believed to be a carefully placed cache of goodies to be doled out as necessary.

Who wants a piece of this juicy caterpillar?

Who wants a piece of this juicy caterpillar?

The young owls began to play with each other, which was the most comical thing you could ever imagine or hope for.

Often, time would be set aside for mutual grooming, which I believe was enjoyed by all.

Mutual grooming was a favorite activity of the day

Mutual grooming was a favorite activity of the day

The grooming would often end up, or be preceded by what we would call “canoodling”.  Not sure that’s actually a real term or not, but they would engage in nibbling of their beaks, almost as if they were kissing.  Some of the young, like our own children, were a bit more needy of such affection and would run around after the parents of older brothers/sisters to get it.  LOL

Kisses all around!

Kisses all around!

Sometimes, such behavior resulted in a playful retaliation where one would effectively pin the other down in a submissive position ….

The "pin-down" - all in fun, of course

The “pin-down” – all in fun, of course

Most times it was quick, but sometimes the claws (though playful) came out.  I’m sure it was all part of teaching them to defend themselves.  It was entertaining to watch and some acts were worthy of Academy Awards!

Somebody's a bit cranky today, eh?

Somebody’s a bit cranky today, eh?

I've got claws, you know

I’ve got claws, you know

About this time, they began testing their wings – especially when the wind was in full force.

"Wow, I can feel a little bit of lift!"

“Wow, I can feel a little bit of lift!”

Learning the power of its wings

Learning the power of its wings

Sometimes it appeared that they almost got more “air” and lift than they expected, as evidenced by the look of surprise on their cute little faces.

"I have lift-off!"

“I have lift-off!”

Just a short trial run to begin with!

Just a short trial run to begin with!

Oh, how the learning was progressing, as they flew around and around within the confines of the safety of their roped off burrow.  At first it was simply quick jumps on the ground.

"Look what I can do!"

“Look what I can do!”

It then progressed to jumping up to the stakes at their burrow, which their parents had modeled for them routinely as they were growing up…. and always learning.

Wings don't fail me now!

Wings don’t fail me now!

Eventually, they learned to pull their wings in to go into a dive back down to the ground.  I’m sure that the first trip down instilled a bit of fear to them, but can you imagine the feeling of accomplishment that they felt!

“This is how we do it ….”

Their grace in the execution of their flying attempts got better with each landing.  Yes, the learning curve was quite exponential at this point.

"10" on that landing!

“10” on that landing!

They would fly around pretty fast and furious and when there were 6 babies and 2 adults to photograph, it became quite a difficult task.  Many a time, I wished I could clone myself and my gear to be able to follow all of them simultaneously!

A little bit of perch, A little bit of rope!

What a joy they were!  Often times, I wasn’t sure who was having more fun …. them or myself!

The wires were crossed on this execution – clearly someone didn’t get the memo …
🙂

One thing I knew for sure, I was becoming attached to one particular owl, I nicknamed “Peanut”!

Are you looking for the burrowing owl blog?   Yep, you're in the right place!