Tag Archive | Great Horned Owls

I see you!


Yesterday, I got a reminder that spiders, wasps and bees are not the only cool stuff to see at Iona Beach! Here is a beautiful Great Horned owl, waiting out the heat of the day under the cottonwoods. The long lens also brings in other creatures:


Cedar Waxwing, probably feasting on elderberries.


A skimmer on its hunting perch.


Herons on the rafted logs in the Fraser River.

The empty nest…


Yesterday, Catherine and I went to see the Great Horned Owls, and found this scene. The nest was empty, and the adults were gone. We searched all around, but found no trace of them. We did, however, find the previously-missing chick, dead right below the nest. I am not sure what could have killed it, although a bad fall could have done it. With the primaries that far developed it should have been able to break the fall somewhat, but there is no telling whether it hit something on the way down, or perhaps was grabbed by an eagle or hawk.


We are hoping what happened with the other chick is that it fledged, although who really knows…We will keep an eye out for the family, as they will probably stay within this patch of woods.  I will remember this unique experience of seeing these bold Great Horned Owls, nesting so close to a walking path in an urban forest.



Wet and dry owls


The past few days have been rather different as far as weather is concerned. Wednesday night was extremely rainy, and when I went out to see the Great Horned Owls on Thursday morning, they were sopping wet! There was some excitement, with a raven flying in too close, and requiring a chase-off by both the male and female.


After the raven was safely away, the male (top) and female (bottom) owl perched together in a tree. I normally never see them together like this during daylight hours.

Here is a video of the two interacting.



On Friday morning, when I got to the nest, I found the male owl with his tail feathers soaked in blood. Whatever he killed the night before must have bled a lot!


Meanwhile, both the mother and the chick were perched on the very top of the nest stump. You can see how big the chick is already!


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I went back later in the afternoon to try to shoot in some better light, but of course the owls were mainly sleeping.

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The male got quite excited upon seeing a Cooper’s Hawk fly by the nest. This time, it didn’t require a chase. I also noted that his blood-soaked tail was now clean. 


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I found that shooting in the better afternoon light allowed for crisper rendition of the chick’s plumage, but at the cost of blowing out the sky.


Crisp rendition or no, this chick spent most of the afternoon snoozing, perhaps dreaming of large rats.

Looking over the edge…


I can identify a lot with this little Great Horned Owlet, looking out from its nest. I am about to leave my nest too, having basically completed my PhD thesis and getting word that my committee is willing to allow me to defend. I have been busy, revising manuscripts (I submitted three papers this week!) and networking to try to get funding for a postdoc. I have a few good leads, but definitely nothing solid at this point…

I am ready to switch directions a bit, to start examining animal behavior from a landscape perspective (an owl’s eye view?) so that I can gain skills and experience I will need to fulfill some scientific goals of mine. I feel a bit like the uncoordinated chick though, in that I am uncertain how to go through the motions to make this work. A scary time!

Anyway, I have done some more shooting at the Great Horned Owl nest last evening (surprise surprise) and have made some videos and pictures I think you will enjoy!

First, Here is a chick getting a bit cavalier about scratching.



And here is the arrival and departure of the female owl (sorry about the weird edit!):


A picture of the mother and the largest chick. The mother is considerably larger than the male, who I have never seen on the nest.


Danger! Love! Sleeping! Owl nest has it all!


I went back to photograph the Great Horned owl nest yesterday, and it was much like many bird nests I have taken shots at. Somewhat boring, with brief moments of excitement.


The shoot started with the two chicks taking a nap, with brief stretching and alert periods.


Things got interesting when this Cooper’s Hawk showed up…I thought the adults were asleep, but the one perched above my head gave chase. Danger averted!


Here is the hawk watching from a distance.


This was my attempt to get the landing of an adult on the nest… Not too easy in the low light!


The chicks look interested though.



Here is the adult scoping out a dog and walker.


The adult actually managed to squeeze in there!



A comfy chick cuddles up to its alert parent.


For more owl goodness, check out this video below.

Weekend Expedition 45: Nesting Great Horned Owls!


So yesterday, my brother Colin and I went out to see a hummingbird nest…And I realized we were quite near an area which has supported nesting Great Horned Owls for a number of years. I had never really had a tripod with me or a fast lens, so I had never gone into this dark and gloomy part of the forest to find it. Having both things on hand this time, we went to have a look, and to our surprise, the nest was quite visible from a nearby walking path!  What a great day out!


Here we can see one of the chicks poking its head out to have a look. It may seem from these pictures that the adult was concerned we were there, but the majority of the time the bird seemed to be snoozing, only briefly opening its eyes.


Here the adult does some preening, while the chick has a look at a dog walking by on the trail.


I love how distinguished these owls look.


Here is a rare frame where the adult and the chick watch while we change positions.


Here is a shot of the adult with two chicks, one alert and one yawning.



In case you are wondering what the hummingbird nest looked like, have a look at this beauty!



And in other bird nesting news, check out this shot my brother got of a Cooper’s Hawk grabbing a branch for a nest just behind where the hummingbird nest was! Photo by Colin McCann.