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

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Owls, Owls, Everywhere

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

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

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

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

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Yellowstone is a very unique and diverse ecosystem … one where you never know what you’re going to be treated to … and the conditions and weather overall can change in a moments notice.  To me, that’s a large part of the beauty and mystique of Yellowstone NP.

On this particular morning, the fog was heavy and the clouds were low.  Though it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, often things present themselves in a fresh perspective.  This bull elk, already sporting some new antlers covered in soft velvet, was found out in the open grassland.   I couldn’t help but notice how wonderful it looked, with those thick clouds in the background.  I knew at that point that it would be an exciting day._DSC0255Yep, it would be a day of varied wildlife for sure.  It wasn’t long before we spotted this lone black wolf in the distance on the open plains … in stalking mode.  No reinforcement from the pack was seen nearby and a solo sandhill crane effectively alerted all potential prey of its presence.  Needless to say, it gave up for the moment and traveled along its way.  OK, so I have to share an amusing moment with everyone … when we were photographing the wolf, a car pulled up and asked us if we had spotted a … horse!  Not really sure how this looked like a horse … especially with the group of long lens photographers who were setting up … for a horse?!  LOL_DSC9812Yellowstone always has its fair share of bison which I’m always fascinated with.  Not sure if it’s their size, their manner as they move about, or the fact that maybe my mind goes back to the bison heads that used to hang on the walls of “Country Bear Jamboree” show at Disney when I was growing up.  🙂_DSC0110Of course, in the spring, there are always lots of “red dogs” nursing off their moms … just the cutest things to watch until they ram their heads into the moms bellies.  Ouch!_DSC0192Can anyone out there resist this one with its “Milk Mustache”?_DSC0218Pronghorn antelope were also quite prevalent during the spring.  This male was chasing around the female, who was pregnant, relentlessly._DSC7470Quite honestly, I thought it was going to drop that baby right then and there!_DSC7455Red fox are favorites of mine.  We caught this one waking up from napping in the shade.  DSC_3811Of course, deer also are fun to spot and photograph, especially when you’re treated to a “two-fer” … two for one, that is._DSC0146Springtime is confirmed with the presence of bluebirds darting about.  _DSC0158Though it was well into May and the official spring season according to the calendar, but in Yellowstone calendar dates aren’t necessarily what determines the season … and snowfall in spring or even summer can happen at any time.fullsizerender-1Just to add a bit of excitement to our day and drive throughout Yellowstone, as we were traveling this tight section, with dropoffs to the right, we heard a noise and watched as an icy boulder came down the mountainside right in front of our car.  Thankfully Tom was able to stop in time and we got out to investigate.fullsizerender-3At first, we thought that we would simply pick it up and off the road by hand.  No way that was going to work, as this frozen boulder was HEAVY!  So while Jen and I blocked any oncoming road traffic, the guys used Tom’s truck to drag it off the road and harm’s way with a couple of heavy tow straps.  Great job Travis and Tom!fullsizerender-2Good deeds are usually rewarded I believe.  Kind of like karma.  Not more than a mile or two down the road, we spotted a bighorn sheep ram … then realized it was an entire herd of boys._DSC7066At first, I wasn’t sure that they were feeling too comfortable with us being there, so we stayed way back, encouraging them to possibly come out for some shots._DSC7184They did just that … and eventually jumped over the rail, onto the road briefly, then proceeded up the mountainside.  I just love the way that they stare with those big eyes. _DSC7330At some point, we pulled over to find some Barrow’s Goldeneye swimming in the still icy water.  This couple was trying to have a few moments of “alone time”, but another male had other plans._DSC7417Over and over, it would be chased off, only to give it another chance.  LOL.  It would swim directly over to the lovebirds and a scuffle would ensue._DSC7410Defending it’s female mate, the male Barrow’s goldeneye would charge after the intruder.  You could hear the action … calling out, running on the surface of the water, water splashing everywhere … so funny to watch and quite interesting as well._DSC7386Every so often, after a successful defense, the paired male would sit up and perform a well executed flappy series for us.DSC_3954The ground squirrels, always on the menu for many wildlife species in the park, alert each other as to the goings on of prey._DSC7473In this case, it was the badger on the prowl.  I was so excited … after all, it was my first!DSC_3839DSC_3846I had been looking for these guys every time I visit Yellowstone.  Finally!  Thankfully (for us anyways), we never saw it catch anything.  I’ve heard stories of how relentless it can be for young wildlife.DSC_3843So this year, the trip was already known in my mind for the wide variety of wildlife that we saw.  Sure, we hadn’t seen a wolverine yet … but I really wasn’t expecting that.  Though I can dream, right?fullsizerender-4Even a yellow-bellied marmot came out to greet us, as it basked in the warmth of the sun.DSC_4910OK, one last glimpse of these young great horned owls before we retreat back to our B&B for the evening … ready to do it all again in the early morning.DSC_4915Can’t every get enough of Yellowstone NP, that’s for sure!_DSC0316Next Up:  What species of wildlife scares me most?  At least on this trip … :-O  Tune in to find out.

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / 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