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

Owls, Owls, Everywhere

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

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

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

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

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

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

 

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

2 Owl Species & A Porcupine :-)

I LOVE OWLS!!!  All kinds of owls … from the burrowing … to the barred … to the great horned … to the snowy … to the great gray … to the barn … and yes, to the eastern screech owl … endorphins release in my brain when I think about them.  (Side note for those of you who read my blog post on my neighborhood eastern screech owls … we heard them last night calling out to each other, so they’re still here … all is good again).

So when I had the opportunity to potentially get to photograph not just one, but two new species for me, I was quite the excited photographer!  So off we went, thanks to a great friend of mine.

It wasn’t long either until we spotted the first one … the long-eared owl.  Isn’t he just gorgeous?  I laugh because when I first saw it, I think that I had a similar facial expression … wide-eyed and intense.

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These long-eared owls are quite amazing.  So very beautiful with their rufous facial disc with that distinctive white patch under their bill.  They remind me a lot of the great horned owls, but they’re smaller, standing about 13-16″ and weighing about 8.5 oz.

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They have asymmetrical ear openings.  The left ear is higher than the right, which helps them better locate their prey by sound.

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I could have stayed there photographing them for the rest of our trip … they were that mesmerizing to me.  🙂  Interesting also to note is that the male’s hoot can sometimes be heard quite the distance … more than 1/2 mile away!  It would be like playing a game of “Marco”-“Polo” trying to find them by just sound.

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They are unlike other owls in that during the winter months, they nest in a communal fashion with others in the nearby vicinity, in the thick brush and trees.  It’s easy to see how they got their name too … like bunny rabbit ears almost.  LOL.  Can’t help but wonder about their success in nesting and what their babies look like.

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While out looking for owls, we saw many other birds, like this meadowlark … doing what meadowlarks do … singing away.  We also saw more northern harriers than I have ever seen collectively in my lifetime.  It was amazing!

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But let’s get back to the owls.  Another lifer for me were the short-eared owls.  They reminded me a lot of the northern harriers too as they cruised the same type of landscapes foraging for food.

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As with other owls, they glided gracefully and with such ease low over the landscape.  As opposed to the long-eared owls, these had very small ear tufts.  Also a medium-sized owl, their head has a pale buff facial disc, with black around the eyes, which of course, are that magnificent yellow.

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Aerial displays during courtship must be fascinating to observe, though it was too early for that when we were there.  These owls nest on the ground on a mound or slight raise of the land, laying about 3-11 eggs.

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While usually spotted flying erratically around, once in awhile they do land and seemingly pose for the camera.  Thankfully.  🙂

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As if those owl sightings weren’t enough for me, we were also treated to the cutest porcupine hanging out, feeding, on a nearby tree.

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I’m always fascinated by them and this guy was quite far up the tree, so I felt safe.  LOL.  Of course, porcupine don’t “throw” their quills like many are lead to believe, but to me, their sheer presence wants to make me respect their “comfort zone”.

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Now this guy, though adorable with those big orange teeth, was only semi-cooperating with us.  Sure the light was perfect, but that dang branch always seeming to cover up his face and eyes partially.

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So we asked for some divine intervention.  Actually Jen asked the porcupine to kindly remove that pesky branch for us, so that we might get a better shot.  I had no idea that I was with, apparently, the “Porcupine Whisperer”.  Within literally a few seconds, would you believe that the porcupine did just that?  No joke!

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Now that’s a face that everyone can both see, enjoy, and love!  What an ending to our day exploring … Owls and Porcupines … yeah,this was an awesome day!

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Not sure how it can get better for me, but rest assured it does!

Next stop:  Grand Teton National Park!  Stay tuned.

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

If You Build It…They Will Come :-)

I think that in 2012, Tom build 2 owl boxes for me and we placed them strategically in our backyard … not too far from our giant mango tree and as far from our house as logistically possible, trying to provide an optimal location for owls or anything else that might want to occupy it.  Twice in the next year and one-half, we had honey bees call it home, which was a thrill in itself, seeing how they are so threatened.  Both times we called a local beekeeper who gladly came by to take down the boxes and harvest the honey and preserve the colony.  Quite interesting to watch, as there’s quite the science behind the entire process.  Felt good about it too.  🙂  Though we had built the boxes to attract owls, we hadn’t had any takers yet.

That all changed in January 2014.  Tom was away on a snowboarding trip and I was bringing the recycles and trash out to the alley behind our house.  As I returned to the deck out back, I sensed I was being watched.  For some strange reason, I took a look at the owl boxes…. nothing in the first one … and I didn’t think anything in the 2nd either.  But for some strange reason, I went in and grabbed the binoculars just to be sure.  Well, to my amazement, as I peered, I saw a set of big eyes looking back at me … OWL eyes.

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I might as well have seen a ghost, as I was SO excited and I checked my judgement to be sure I was seeing, what I was seeing.  You get the picture, right?

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I wasn’t crazy and within 2 days, I noticed that we had 2 owls, eastern screech owls to be exact, each occupying one of the owl boxes.  For the next 4 months, we observed them daily.  The female was a gorgeous red morph, while the male was gray.  Both were pure eye candy to me and I felt like an “owl whisperer” before long.  LOL.   One day, we were curious about their behavior, as the dad seemed to be the only one leaving the box for any extended period of time.  So, we bought a painters pole and attached a HD Contour (like a Go Pro) with a red lens covering a tiny light.  To our surprise, there were 3 tiny owlets inside!  (OK, this is not a great shot, but the best I could do from the video)

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We would find the female taking breaks in the mango tree, more frequently as the trio grew in size.

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One day, we noticed that the owlets were no longer in the box and sure enough, we found 2 of them far up in the tree.  Looking down at us I delighted in knowing that they were now big enough to fledge, at least from the box.  It was our first time seeing each other too!

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Soon they were gone from our tree, but neighbors reported seeing at least 3-4 of the owls in their yards and on their power lines at dusk and early evenings.  Once in June, I actually heard them calling out and I reasoned that they were telling me that they were fine and still around.  🙂

In late December 2014, we began hearing them calling out at night … more and more.  Before long we noticed the female returned and we got excited with the thought that we would have our guests back … and hopefully some babies again.

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We’re all but positive that they mated and the male was spotted with the female for another 4-6 weeks.

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Their behavior was quite predictable, as they would emerge from the box when the sun went down and would stand out on the perch that Tom built for them.  In March, we left for a trip out west for some winter recreation and photography with my daughter and son-in-law.

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When we returned, they were both gone.  It was so sad for us, as we had the highest of hopes for a repeat experience.  It is my hope that they nested somewhere else, hopefully in the near vicinity, and had a successful brood.  I will never forget them and hope to see them again.  It might be hard to understand, but I felt so connected with them, as I do other species of owls … especially the burrowing owls that Im fortunate to be able to follow annually.  Yes, besides bears, owls hold a special place in my heart.  ❤

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Stay tuned for more south Florida sightings!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy