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Burrowing Owl

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Pair of little owls focuses on the photographer

One of this summer’s favorite pairs of Burrowing Owls. They provided me with a good number of photo opportunities although once their little ones began emerging, they became a bit more reclusive and standoffish.

It won’t be long now and the family will begin their journey to someplace further south for the winter. During the summer Burrowing Owls can be found across much of the western United States. At more southern latitudes closer to Mexico and in Florida they stay in place year round.

Unlike most owls, they are diurnal (versus nocturnal) so it is quite common to find them out and about during the day. Burrowing Owls are considered a threatened species here in the Colorado. Their numbers appear to be on the decline as humans take over and destroy their habitat.

Many folks think nothing of wiping out Prairie Dog colonies, a keystone species itself, but don’t think of the cascading effects of that on all of the other creatures down the line, including these little guys.

A pair of Burrowing Owls keeps close watch at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. (© Tony’s Takes)

A pair of Burrowing Owls keeps close watch at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. (© Tony’s Takes)

That’s close enough, bub!

This adult Burrowing Owl made it pretty clear by its stare that it didn’t care too much to have its picture taken. Last year, the USDA and Denver International Airport attempted to eradicate these and other raptors from the land surrounding the airport by destroying any Prairie Dog colony nearby. While it worked in the short term, in the long term the effort failed and the Burrowing Owls (and Prairie Dogs) are back.

A Burrowing Owl stares intensely into the camera near Denver International Airport. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Burrowing Owl stares intensely into the camera near Denver International Airport. (© Tony’s Takes)

Brave little Burrowing Owl

There seems to have been a bumper crop of little owlets at many of the nest sites this year. One even had as many as NINE little ones! At one nearby, there were five. Here, one of the parents, probably seeking a break from all those hungry mouths, decided it would rather hang out on a roadside sign post than at home. Not a very safe thing to do but I can sympathize. 😉

A Burrowing Owl on the Colorado plains rests on a roadside marker post.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A Burrowing Owl on the Colorado plains rests on a roadside marker post. (© Tony’s Takes)

Safe at second base!

😉 Mama Burrowing Owl flies and slides in at the burrow.

The lady here caught me – and her mate – a bit by surprise. I was photographing him as he was just standing there looking at me and I had assumed she was down in the burrow keeping her eggs warm.

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see motion and instinctively start clicking the shutter. I only managed two captures of her as she came flying in fast and hot. Judging by the look in her eyes, she was well aware I was there too.

Perhaps these little guys are baseball fans?

A female Burrowing Owl flies in for a landing at its burrow while its mate looks on.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A female Burrowing Owl flies in for a landing at its burrow while its mate looks on. (© Tony’s Takes)

“My what a big truck you have!”

I’m not sure who was more surprised by the close proximity I and this Burrowing Owl found ourselves in – me or the owl.

I was taking pictures of him and his mate at their burrow about 20 yards away when suddenly he decided to fly closer and landed not 15 feet away, right outside my truck window. He seemed pretty surprised at my presence although I had been sitting there for an hour.

This pair has become quite famous due to their easily accessed location and they always seem to put on a show. It shouldn’t be long before the female retreats to the burrow with eggs and then in a month or so little ones will arrive if all goes well.

For more pics of these cool little owls, see here.

A male Burrowing Owl seems a bit surprised at the presence of a photographer. (© Tony’s Takes)

A male Burrowing Owl seems a bit surprised at the presence of a photographer. (© Tony’s Takes)

Video: Burrowing Owl puts on a courtship display

As promised…. Very cool video of this Burrowing Owl. Best of all, some behavior not often seen as it performs a courtship display. He was hanging out on his burrow when another male nearby began a mating / courtship call. Not to be outdone, this owl hopped on top of a mullein plant and began calling as well. I took tons of pics but he was so cooperative I switched to video for a bit. It is kind of shaky as I was resting the camera on my truck window and zoomed in fully. Still fun to see and hear.

A very focused little owl

Such a treat to be able to focus this cute, male Burrowing Owl a few days ago. Last year I just did not have good luck getting quality pictures of these seasonal visitors to the Colorado plains. This guy and his mate changed my luck finally.

The pair was hanging out by their burrow a good ways from the road when suddenly, he decided to oblige me with a perch not 25 feet from my truck! I didn’t get any flight shots but captured tons of great images as he sat on a mullein plant and took in the sunrise. In fact, he posed so long, I had time to shoot a bit of cool video too – check back this evening to see that. It is well worth it.

Burrowing Owls are considered a threatened species here in the Centennial State. Their numbers appear to be on the decline as humans take over and destroy their habitat. Many folks think nothing of wiping out Prairie Dog colonies, a keystone species itself, but don’t think of the cascading effects of that on all of the other creatures down the line, including these little guys.

A Burrowing Owl keeps close watch soon after sunrise on the Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Burrowing Owl keeps close watch soon after sunrise on the Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

Burrowing Owl pair on a frosty morning

Burrowing Owl pair on a frosty morning. Yes, I said a pair. Look close. While the male was willing to come out and pose, the female opted to stay a bit concealed.

If there is a more entertaining bird out there I surely have never seen it. In terms of personality it would be tough to beat these little ones and I always look forward to this time of year when they arrive for the spring and summer. Last season I didn’t have much luck getting quality pics of them – hopefully I do better this year.

During the summer they can be found across much of the western United States. At more southern latitudes closer to Mexico and in Florida they stay in place year round. Unlike most owls, Burrowing Owls are diurnal (versus nocturnal) so it is quite common to find them out and about during the day.

A pair of Burrowing Owls take in the sunrise on a chilly Colorado morning. (© Tony’s Takes)

A pair of Burrowing Owls take in the sunrise on a chilly Colorado morning. (© Tony’s Takes)

Little owl takes flight

The one thing sorely missing from my spring and summer photography has been Burrowing Owls. Denver International Airport and the U.S. Department of Agriculture were sadly all too successful in wiping out their habitat in my area in the late winter.

Threatened species? Apparently government agencies don’t care.

Anyway, I have seen a few that managed to find homes in private fields that the government couldn’t touch. My friend, Bill, clued me in on one spot and how best to access them which I did the other day.

They were pretty skittish as wheat had been harvested near them the week before and they likely didn’t care for the big combines that came rolling through. As a result, they weren’t willing to sit and pose for cute pictures like I normally hope to get but one did oblige with a flyover.

I struggled to get focused on it but did finally manage just as it went beside me. Not a great shot really but I am struck by how much similar it looks in flight to its big cousin, the Great Horned Owl.

A Burrowing Owl flies through the air in Adams County, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Burrowing Owl flies through the air in Adams County, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

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