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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More Burrowing Owls … Say What?

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

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

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

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

© 2018  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

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

Oh, I Can’t Get Enough Of These Guys

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

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

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

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

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

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

My Owl Fix

I love owls, as many of you know.

In Florida, we have many different types of owls including the burrowing, barn, barred, eastern screech, and the great horned owls.

Out west, they also have many varieties of owls and on this trip we were able to get the usual images of the great horned owl adult.  They are always quite observant to what’s going on in their surroundings, especially when they’re in the protective mode.DSC_2157Why the protective mode?  Well because they had 3 baby owlets nearby in the nest.  How absolutely adorable are they?DSC_2139As we photographed them, they were clearly on the alert themselves.DSC_2152Though we were out looking for owls, I couldn’t help but turn my head when I saw this little cutie fly by.  The western tanager is a beautiful bird and this male was flying to and from the thick brush, making it difficult to get a clear shot.  I found it interesting to know that the reddish head color actually comes from its diet … and it’s the most northern breeding tanager out there.DSC_2120Also brightly colored and flying around is the American goldfinch, which is the only member in its family to molt in the spring as well as the fall.DSC_2172Now, the main reason we were exploring this area was to find some long-eared owls.  We never found the adults on this trip, but we found something even better … 3 young long-eared owlets.  I honestly don’t think that they get much cuter.DSC_2197There were actually several families of LEOs around.  Some a bit older than the others, as shown below.DSC_2215This young owlet was perched in the tree staring at us … actually found us first, which I imagine they all did.  LOL.  The sweetest face ever … reminds me of the Gremlins from the movie.  Evidence of the area being the hunting grounds for these owls was evident by the kills sporadically strewn around the grounds.DSC_2219OK, so I got my owl fix this evening.  Or at least until the next time I’m in the area.  🙂

Next Up:  Heading into Yellowstone NP

© 2016  TNWA Photography

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

 

My New Found Friends – Burrowing Owls

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

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

In South Florida, once late April arrives, so do several things … the heat, the humidity, the mosquitoes – which for me are never a welcome addition.  However, it also signals another change … the pending arrival of the burrowing owl babies!  So, beginning in mid-April, I began regular visits to the burrows.

Expecting the new arrivals

Expecting the new arrivals

At first, we simply see the parents-to-be, as they go about the final preparations for their impending arrivals.

Parents share the watch of the burrow

Parents share the watch of the burrow

Once the baby owls are hatched, which can happen over a period of time, we begin to see only the dad, since the mom is busy in the burrow taking care of her new hatchlings.

One of the burrowing owls parents stand guard and protects its family and burrow

One of the burrowing owls parents stand guard and protects its family and burrow

By the end of April, we get some of the first glimpses of the baby owls.  They are absolutely adorable and each has its own looks and personality right from the get-go.

The very first glimpse this year of the new baby burrowing owls

The very first glimpse this year of the new baby burrowing owls

To me, there’s nothing like the first glimpses of the babies, as they are so timid and quite curious about this great big world outside of their burrow.  It reminds me so much of when our own young began to explore their own world.  Everything is new, everything is exciting, and they are quite cautious of certain things.

Two very young siblings take a look at their newfound world.

Two very young siblings take a look at their newfound world.

Besides taking care of the young, the parent owls must also take care of their burrow – making sure that the opening is secure and clearing out unwanted items.  Often, the parents will enter the entrance of the burrow and dig in the sand, effectively throwing it up onto the babies waiting above.  It’s quite comical to watch as they appear to take it on the chin, the eyes, head, etc.

How Rude! Parent digs out burrow and tosses the sand onto its young

How Rude!
Parent digs out burrow and tosses the sand onto its young

The parents also have to take care of nourishing themselves and their young.  They will venture outside of their roped burrows to grab a quick bite and often bring some home for the others.

Crickets, anyone?

Crickets, anyone?

Burrowing owls will digest what they can or need to, then over time, they cough up a pellet consisting of the undigested remnants of their diet.  Yum!  LOL

Regurgitated pellet just after expelling - must feel better now  :-)

Regurgitated pellet just after expelling – must feel better now 🙂

Burrowing owl parents are quite the protective breed.  See, these owls make their burrows and raise their young in what is essentially a sports park @ Brian Piccolo Park in Cooper City, Florida.  Every day, many humans inhabit their environment, which is a mixed bag of feelings for me.  See, it’s nice that the public can view them and learn from them and about them, but some don’t understand how their actions can affect these wonderful creatures.  They’re also protected by law, though some humans (hopefully unintentionally) seem not to understand that.  All that being said, the benefit to the owls is that they are a bit protected from their predators, such as the various types of hawks that fly overhead looking for an easy meal.

Adult burrowing owl stands guard

Adult burrowing owl stands guard

On alert .... Look, up in the sky, it's a bird, no a plane, .... no it's a bird .... an enemy hawk specifically! With one alert "bark", the entire family quickly retreats to the confines of the burrow.

On alert …. Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird, no a plane, …. no it’s a bird …. an enemy hawk specifically!
With one alert “bark”, the entire family quickly retreats to the confines of the burrow.

Look out ... One of the many hawks soaring above their burrows

Look out … One of the many hawks soaring above their burrows

Yes, either way, these burrowing owl parents are amazing parents – very loving, very patient, very protective and attentive, and very strict with their warnings and disciplines.  See, it’s for their young’s own good … and perhaps some human parents could learn a thing or two from them… hey, just sayin’.

Parent & Child - a special bond for sure

Parent & Child – a special bond for sure

I waited for a few months to blog about these owls, to do an entire blog on their developments and antics along the way, but that just can’t be done in one blog.  So for the next 3 blogs, I will continue my Burrowing Owl Encounters blog, so check back weekly.

Owlet wing stretch ... feels good! Note:  This particular baby had such dark eyes, not bright yellow like his brothers & sisters.

Owlet wing stretch … feels good!
Note: This particular baby had such dark eyes, not bright yellow like his brothers & sisters.

Hope that you enjoyed meeting the objects of my affection so far.  🙂

3 of the first 5 baby burrowing owls that we spotted in 2013

3 of the first 5 baby burrowing owls that we spotted in 2013