Western Screech Owls … Oh My

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

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

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

Next Up:  More local birding action

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

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

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My World That Surrounds Me

In late fall/early winter, the Grand Valley area of western Colorado plays host to a variety of migrating birds.  Of course, one of my favorites are the sandhill cranes.  It’s not unusual to see groups of 1,000 or more in the early morning or pre-dusk hours, as they roost in the farmlands.  Mostly we see adults, though sometimes you get a few teenagers.

DSC_6171-Edit-2Whenever I see sandhill cranes, I’m immediately taken back to one of my first encounters of fields of them, back at Creamer’s Field in Fairbanks, AK.  There’s few sights or sounds as beautiful as congregating and celebrating sandhills.  Don’t even get me going as to how fabulous they are when courting.  🙂DSC_6223-Edit-Edit-2Home in Colorado now, I’ve had my share of “new” birds.  Now this doesn’t mean that these birds are “lifers” for me, but to have them share my immediate surroundings, has been a thrill.  One of them that I take great joy in viewing is the Steller’s Jay.  Such attitude it seems to possess with that fancy crested ‘do … I always stop to grab a shot or two when I see them.DSC_6503-Edit-2DSC_6516-2Often hanging out with the jays are the Clark’s Nutcrackers … also in the jay family, they’re quite social and beautiful as well.DSC_6384-2DSC_6413-2To say that I’ve seen my fair share of the Canada Goose is an understatement.  Some days it seems as though every field or body of water is filled with them.  I’ve delighted in watching and yes, hearing them as they arrive to any given lake or such.  Calling out, organizing themselves in that V-formation that they’re known for, as well as performing acrobatic maneuvers as they approach their landing … it’s all been fascinating to be part of.DSC_7463-Edit-Edit-2Now perhaps I’ve seen snow geese before, but if I did I probably didn’t realize what they were.  The snow goose has been a thrill to observe as well, though for the most part, I’ve found them to be a bit frustrating to photograph at a close proximity.  LOL.  Oh well, I’m sure that they don’t care.DSC_8480-2One day, though, they treated me to some nice captures.  Just wished that they spread themselves out a bit. DSC_8500-Edit-Edit-2I just loved the way they swam about, walked the shoreline, preened themselves, and took floating naps on the waters surface.  So very beautiful they were._DSC3771-Edit-2Not a stranger to me was the pied-billed grebes which I see regularly in Colorado as well as I did in Florida.DSC_8671-2When the white-crowned sparrow is in the area, you cannot ignore or mistake its song, movement, or sight.  Though I’ve seen them in FL occasionally, they seem to be everyday sightings here.  DSC_8694-Edit-Edit-2The Western scrub jay, which is now referred to as the Woodhouse’s scrub jay, is another bird that I’ve taken a delight to.  This particular one was taken on a very cold day, so it was a bit fluffed up, resembling more of a mountain bluebird!  LOLDSC_8843-Edit-2Now all of these birds already shared doesn’t mean that there aren’t any 4-legged wildlife out in the area.  How about this one?  Honestly, it was one of the most beautiful (or handsome) coyotes I had ever seen.  ❤DSC_8740-2One last look back at me before it trotted off into the wilderness.  Loved it!DSC_8745-2Cousins to the bighorn sheep, only a smaller version, the desert bighorn sheep are always a fun way to spend a day.  By now, the females have most likely dropped their young, so this shot reminds me that I need to return to the scene to check things out again.DSC_9072-2Of course this area is home to many herds of mule deer.  This particular guy had one of the most fascinating, though quite odd, set of antlers.  Has anyone ever seen anything like that before?  I mean, within the mule deer?DSC_6298-2About an hour or so east of Fruita is the town of Rifle, CO, home to Rifle Falls State Park.  Rifle Falls is a triple waterfall amidst the natural stone formations found in the area.  So unique and quite a thrill to photograph when the frost forms on the accompanying rocks and vegetation._DSC3697-2_DSC3699-2So, I hope that you enjoyed a peek into the beauty that surrounds me in western Colorado.  As I now enter a 3rd season here, I can’t wait to see what the future holds.  🙂

Next Up:  The San Juan Mountains

© 2018  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

The Early Bird Gets the Worm (& the sunrise, too)

What better way to start a new day than with a sunrise from Colorado National Monument!  After the amazing day I had yesterday, Amy was kind enough to agree to meeting up, very early, to situate ourselves up on the monument to capture the sunrise.  The clouds showed up as well, which only adds to the atmosphere of the shot.20150714-DSC_5272-HDROK, so there was a very light sprinkle along the way, but that only added a beautiful rainbow (stop looking … it’s not in this blog).  It was behind us and though I shot it, I was still so amazed at those deep colors emerging in the early morning’s light and subsequent sunrise.
20150714-DSC_5285-HDR Often, when the sun rises, the sunrise shooting is over, as the sun’s light gets too bright and harsh.  However, when the light get shrouded behind a cloud or mountain peak in the distance, it can be fabulous.  Love the sun burst on the horizon.20150714-DSC_5346-HDR 20150714-DSC_5351-HDR I was having so much fun just watching the changing colors in the sky, that I would find myself forgetting to click my shutter!  LOL20150714-DSC_5315-HDR 20150714-DSC_5436-HDR More rays of light shiny down on the city of Grand Junction.20150714-DSC_5381-HDR Of course, Colorado National Monument itself is quite fascinating in its varied terrain, red rock formations, green brush cover, and prominent textures.  We looked, but didn’t see the bighorn sheep that Tom & I ran into the night before.20150714-DSC_5448 We did however, see a whole colony of chukkars scurrying around on the rocky landscape.  It was fun to see them somewhere new … as I had first seen them earlier in the winter at Antelope Island SP in Utah for my first time.  They have the most interesting colors and features.20150714-DSC_4887We also toured a few areas near GJ, including an Audubon Nature Preserve (I hope I got that right Amy).  There I got to photograph several Western Kingbirds, perched and also flying around, on the area bushes.  I think it was a first sighting for me.
20150714-DSC_5013 Now, when speaking of amazing and interesting features, we also spotted a Gambel’s Quail perched nearby the road.  What a fancy looking thing too!  It simply sat there, observing us, as we photographed away.  Not one to do much flying, it did finally take a quick and short flight to the landscape below after some time.  Again, it was another first for me.  20150714-DSC_4980 One last bird for my “new” list, was this immature blue grosbeak.  I know that this is far from a stellar shot, but hey, it was a new one.  I have never taken the time to create my “life list” of birds seen, but after this trip and with lots more travel planned in my retirement from my “day job”, I might just start one now.  🙂20150714-DSC_5044The last 2 days of touring Grand Junction, with the “insider’s advantage” was made possible by my friend, Amy (“Happy Photographer” on Flickr – easy to see where she got that user name).  Thanks so much!  Can’t wait to come back!20150714-IMG_2777 No town visit is ever complete without a visit to their local sushi restaurant for a celebratory dinner, which didn’t disappoint either.  Yummy!20150714-IMG_2779Next up:  Idaho Springs, CO and another meet up with an old friend and photographer for some mountain goats and landscapes!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography