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.
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.
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.
45.7-63.5 cm (18-25 in)
1361 g (48 oz)
Large (16 – 32 in)
Red-brown with dark barring and white upper breast
Dark brown with gray-brown mottling
Barred or banded
Yellowish hazel in young, becoming steel gray tinged with yellow, then brilliant yellow from age 30 days into adulthood
Crested or plumed, Streaked, Unique pattern, Eyebrow
Gray-brown with paler mottling and white eyebrows. Red-brown facial disk bordered in black
White with gray wash. with pale brown mottling
Brown and buff barred
Direct flap and glide flight., Strong silent wing beats
91.4-152.4 cm (36-60 in)
Dark brown with gray-brown mottling
Red-brown with dark barring
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.
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.
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.
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.