Mother and Child: Great Horned Owls

I identify myself as a mother more than any other role, so a glimpse of mother and child in the animal kingdom is a moment with special resonance for me. While photographing this majestic Great Horned Owl, I noticed something fuzzy moving near the owl. Hmmm. I kept my finger on the camera trigger, hoping to capture a moment when the owlet would peer over the edge of the nest.

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Looking like a cuddly stuffed animal, the owlet shows us its head and eyes for a hot second, while mother owl keeps a protective eye out for any predators.

Remember the expression, “Mothers need eyes in the back of their heads?” I think mother owl would agree, as she keeps one eye on my dog Sophie.

Eyes of a Great Horned Owl

My first photographs of the Great Horned Owl feature exciting eye contact. Do you know who I have to thank for that? My dog! This fantastic owl was guarding its nest and keeping a watchful eye on my Australian Shepherd, who was patiently waiting by my side. I didn’t realize that Sophie would play an active role in my photo shoot today!

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Terrific eye contact with this attentive Great Horned Owl, guarding its nest. Naples, Florida 1/31/2020.

In the next photo, the morning sun is nicely lighting the owl about 70 feet high in the pine tree. Since the owl had to be relocated by the Southwest Conservancy, the nest consists of a man-made wicker basket (if you were wondering). That little fluff ball you see beneath the adult owl is a baby owlet! I noticed it moving. Stay tuned for my next blog where you will catch an even better glimpse of the owlet.

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Great Horned Owl did not take its eyes off my dog. Not to worry, she can’t climb trees. Naples, FL 1/31/2020.

Thanks to Brian Beckner of Native Bird Boxes for telling me about the nest’s location. My next blog will share the best photo of this parent and baby Great Horned Owl. Oh, the thrills of bird watching!

Glimpse of the Barred Owl

Well hidden in the dark shadows of the Cypress Swamp, undisturbed by onlookers on a distant boardwalk, the Barred Owl seemed to sleep. Bird watchers gathered, whispered and pointed toward the quiet owl. It would take a long lens (600mm), steady hands, perfect focus and the right camera settings (ISO 2000, 1/1000th) to capture a good photograph. Since our owl stayed in place and turned in our direction eventually, I got the shot.

This Barred Owl is nesting at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Naples, Florida. I was ready when it turned its head in my direction.

While mostly stoic, this owl took a moment to scratch its leg, giving us a new perspective on its feather patterns and a view of the feet and sharp opposable claws.

Sleepy Screech Owl

This little owl and I have one thing in common: we both like to sleep in. He lives in a hollow of a tree trunk in a south Florida swamp. When beach goers walk by on a nearby boardwalk and make lots of noise saying, “Is the owl there? I don’t see him. OH THERE HE IS!” he just sleeps right through it.

#owl, #naples, #florida, #pelicanbay, #sleepy, #naptime, #wildlife, #nature
Well camouflaged Eastern Screech Owl taking a late morning nap.

Silent Screech Owl

This little screech owl didn’t utter a peep (or a screech) while I set up my tripod to photograph him. He just went to sleep. Luckily, I got a shot of him with his eyes open before he drifted off to dreamland. Other people who stopped to admire him, sitting in the hollow of a dead tree suggested that the owl must be female, as it was sitting on a nest. I did some reading and learned that the males tend to establish a nest in the late winter (now) — in the hollow of a tree — a rich environment for prey of insects, reptiles and small mammals. The  female owls then “marry for money,” choosing the mate based on the quality of the cavity and the food supply. Who knew?

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Screech owl photographed in Naples, Florida 2/10/16

Evening light was low, and I used my 200mm Nikon lens on my Nikon D800 camera body. I used a wide 3.5 f/stop in order to blur the background and put visual emphasis on the owl. For low noise and a crisp image even after cropping, I used ISO 200, and my shutter speed was 1/13 second, making a tripod essential.

Screech owls have acute hearing, but this one was extremely tolerant of people walking by, and the occasional loud quote, “Oh, I SEE IT!”  His coloring and texture makes him well camouflaged. He ignored all of us, and saved his trill for the hunt, when he uses it to scare off another raptor that might also want to catch the same mouse.

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Good night, Little Screech Owl. You are safe.

It is always a privilege to observe wildlife in its habitat and to photograph it without disturbing it. I’m so grateful that he knew we came in peace to admire him. Take a look at those claws!