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Whoo can see me?

I mentioned in my “meaning behind the name” post that I am a birder. This is not something I have been doing a long time, but a hobby that a dear friend of mine got me interested in back in 2013. At first I was fascinated with large birds, primarily because they were the easiest to find. 

Today I find all birds wonderful and unique in there own way. 

In June of this year, my Husband, I and our 8 week old son went on a vacation to Garden City, Utah (Bear Lake area). We stayed at Worldmark Bear Lake which over looked Bear Lake. On the shore line of the lake were these trees. Our first night there as we were walking around the area we saw this family of Great Horned Owls. At first we thought there were only four, the mom, dad and two babies. We latter found that it was a family of five. This was not the first time me seeing the Great Horned Owl, but it was first time I was going to get some amazing photos.

The Great Horned Owl has long, ear like tufts, intimidating yellow-eyes, and a deep hooting voice. The Great Horned Owl is the quintessential owl of storybooks. This powerful predator can take down birds and mammals even larger than itself, but it also dines on daintier fare such as tiny scorpions, mice, and frogs. It’s one of the most common owls in North America, equally at home in deserts, wetlands, forests, grasslands, backyards, cities, and almost any other semi-open habitat between the Arctic and the tropics.

It was getting dark, so the pictures that first night were not the greatest. The next day as we left the hotel to explore other sides of the lake, we were fortunate enough to catch another glimpse of the owls. This time in a day position. This was definitely not the best time to attempt to get a great picture since it was hiding, very well I might add.

Size & Shape

These are large, thick-bodied owls with two prominent feathered tufts on the head. The wings are broad and rounded. In flight, the rounded head and short bill combine to create a blunt-headed silhouette.

Color Pattern

Great Horned Owls are mottled gray-brown, with reddish brown faces and a neat white patch on the throat. Their overall color tone varies regionally from sooty to pale.

The following morning I  decided to get up early and to see the owls as they were ending there evening of hunting for food. I wend out before the sun had even begun to rise. The first owl I saw was on top of the roof of the hotel. It much to far away for a photo. As I continued walking, low and behold on the ground below a pine tree there was an owl. I could not believe my eyes. Not only was one sitting under the tree, there was another one perched on top of the tennis court net. It was amazing. The entire morning experience with the Great Horned Owls continues to take my breath away. I even got to catch a photo of one of the younger owls taking flight.

 

Body

 

Length:

45.7-63.5 cm (18-25 in)

Weight:

1361 g (48 oz)

Color Primary:

Brown, Gray

Size:

Large (16 – 32 in)

Underparts:

Red-brown with dark barring and white upper breast

Upperparts:

Dark brown with gray-brown mottling

Back Pattern:

Mottled

Belly Pattern:

Barred or banded

Head

Bill Shape:

Hooked

Eye Color:

Yellowish hazel in young, becoming steel gray tinged with yellow, then brilliant yellow from age 30 days into adulthood

Head Pattern:

Crested or plumed, Streaked, Unique pattern, Eyebrow

Crown Color:

Tan, Buff

Forehead Color:

Gray-brown with paler mottling and white eyebrows. Red-brown facial disk bordered in black

Nape Color:

White with gray wash. with pale brown mottling

Throat Color:

Brown and buff barred

Cere Color:

Black

Flight

Flight Pattern:

Direct flap and glide flight., Strong silent wing beats

Wingspan:

91.4-152.4 cm (36-60 in)

Tail Shape:

Rounded Tail

Tail Pattern:

Barred

Upper Tail:

Dark brown with gray-brown mottling

Under Tail:

Red-brown with dark barring

At one point during the morning of following the owls, I watched one fly over to a roof top, which I then thought I watched fly to the ground under another pine tree as it went after its pray. Oh boy was I wrong. It was not until I was going through my photos did I find that there were two owls on the roof top, one of which flew after pray.

Behavior 

Great Horned Owls are nocturnal. You may see them at dusk sitting on fence posts or tree limbs at the edges of open areas, or flying across roads or fields with stiff, deep beats of their rounded wings. Their call is a deep, stuttering series of four to five hoots.

Habitat 

Look for this widespread owl in woods, particularly young woods interspersed with fields or other open areas. The broad range of habitats they use includes deciduous and evergreen forests, swamps, desert, tundra edges, and tropical rainforest, as well as cities, orchards, suburbs, and parks.

Feeding Behavior 

Hunts mostly at night, sometimes at dusk. Watches from high perch, then swoops down to capture prey in its talons. Has extremely good hearing and good vision in low light conditions. In north in winter, may store uneaten prey, coming back later to thaw out frozen carcass by “incubating” it.

I spent at least two hours out following these owls and although I was up at five am, I would not have changed it for the world. The Great Horned Owl was not considered a “lifer” for me either. I have seen it many times before, even just a few weeks prior at the Botanical Gardens in Phoenix. The experience of watching these birds in there natural habitat, searching for there final snacks before sleeping for the day was a priceless experience.

As a birder and one who takes lots of photos of birds, I identify my photos in to three categories, ID-able, Good and National Geographics. Of course this morning as the sun rose, I was going for national geographic type photos. These are photos I would submit to contests, even print on to canvas and wall picture worthy. You can decide on which category these photos fall in to, but in my opinion these are national geographic photos. I very proud of these photos.

This leads me to why I name this post “whoo can see me?” I absolutely love how this photo shows how well an owl blends in to its surrounding and this is evident as to why some birds are hard to find.

Stay tuned for more birds

These photos were taken with a Nikon D750,  and Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens with Auto Focus.

If any one is interested in these photos on canvas, print, full size digital copy, contact me for pricing.

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