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Great Horned Owl

“Would you please just leave me alone?”

Spotting a Great Horned Owl is not normally easy but sometimes you get the help of other feathered creatures. Such was the case here. I headed out at sunrise to try to see if I could find Houdini and Henrietta, a nesting pair of Great Horned Owls not far from my home.

I did find them surprisingly easily initially but both flew off, preferring their privacy. I wasn’t having much fun relocating them but then heard a racket of cackling crows. I knew that likely meant they had found one of my owl friends and were not happy about.

Following the sound, I found Henrietta and, unfortunately for her, about a half-dozen crows that were hassling her. She was pretty upset, no doubt just wanting to sleep after a night out and about. She would move to another roost and the crows would follow, never giving her a moment of peace. This went on for a good half hour before the black birds gave up and my female owl friend got a break.

A Great Horned Owl is hassled by crows in Adams County, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Great Horned Owl is hassled by crows in Adams County, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Great Horned Owl is hassled by crows in Adams County, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Great Horned Owl is hassled by crows in Adams County, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Great Horned Owl is hassled by crows in Adams County, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Great Horned Owl is hassled by crows in Adams County, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

Great Horned Owl stays focused on the photographer

Boy, it has been far too long since I have had a decent chance to photograph one of these. My last couple visits to this pretty lady’s area have been unfruitful. I’m not worried though as these guys are masters of camouflage and I could have walked right under her and not seen her. I’ll have to give it another try here soon as I am missing seeing them. Taken in Adams County, Colorado.

If you love raptors like this owl, check out my 2018 Raptor calendar here.

A Great Horned Owl keeps close watch on the photographer. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Great Horned Owl keeps close watch on the photographer. (© Tony’s Takes)

Hoo, hoo dares to enter?

A bit of an eerie scene for Halloween as a Great Horned Owl stands watch. This image was purely a case of photographer error but when I snapped it back in April, I knew it would make a good one for today.

The cool dude was hanging out in a thick stand of trees but I was forced to shoot directly into the rising sun. I failed to adjust my settings for the dark foreground / bright background and ended up with this silhouette instead of a properly exposed image. Turns out sometimes mistakes can be good things. 😉

I wish you all a very happy All Hallows’ Eve and hope you manage to avoid any scary creatures.

A silhouetted Great Horned Owl keeps watch on Halloween. (© Tony’s Takes)

A silhouetted Great Horned Owl keeps watch on Halloween. (© Tony’s Takes)

Great Horned Owl keeping close watch

Going back to April for this capture of the female at my local nest. Her owlets were growing and so she had some freedom to leave the nest and move around. On this particular day, she was feeling brave and hanging out in the open which gave me a pretty nice photo opportunity – even if the skies were kind of drab.

Great Horned Owls are common across all of North America and are the type of owl often depicted in storybooks. During the day they are usually sleeping but at night they come alive and hunt with amazing accuracy in the dark.

A female Great Horned Owl keeps close watch near her nest. (© Tony’s Takes)

A female Great Horned Owl keeps close watch near her nest. (© Tony’s Takes)

Cliff-side owlets keep close watch on the photographer

I had seen pictures in years’ past of this Great Horned Owl nesting spot but never could figure out where it was. By chance, social media gave me a clue and on my way through the area I had to check them out.

The sun had barely come up and the spot was heavily shaded meaning high ISOs and not great quality pics but it was fun to find and see them, particularly given the unique spot.

The two owlets were quite active and keeping close watch on everything around them, including me. They apparently have fledged in the past day or two so my one photo opportunity with them was my last.

Little owlets take in the morning sun

They aren’t ready for flight yet but that doesn’t mean they are sticking to the nest. Well, at least one of the two at this site has decided to move around a bit.

This was my first visit to this nest, a tip provided to me by my friend, Patrick, led me here. The nest is well concealed, especially now that the trees are leafing out, so it was tough to get a clear angle on them last weekend.

One owlet was a few feet away from the nest, watching folks walk by on the nearby trail. The other stayed in the home but was definitely keeping watch as well.

It will be a couple of weeks before they are ready for flight but between now and then, they will continue to get braver and climb around the nest tree.

A Great Horned Owl owlet that has branched out from the nest stares at the camera. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Great Horned Owl owlet that has branched out from the nest stares at the camera. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Great Horned Owl keeps close watch from the safety of the nest. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Great Horned Owl keeps close watch from the safety of the nest. (© Tony’s Takes)

Great Horned Owl launches

Getting flight pictures of owls is extremely difficult. First you have the problem of just finding them as they are notoriously adept at the hide and seek game. Then, even when you do find them, if they take off they have a knack for going the exact opposite direction you want with no warning. Even when they do launch toward you, getting a good focus on them with so much clutter is challenging to say the least.

On this morning I was lucky on all counts as I found this pretty lady, she took off right toward me and I was able to stay focused on it.

Taken in Adams County, Colorado.

A female Great Horned Owl launches into the air.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A female Great Horned Owl launches into the air. (© Tony’s Takes)

Young Cooper’s Hawk gives a photographer a hand

Finding Great Horned Owls can be a challenge, particularly in heavily wooded areas. They have a knack for positioning themselves in just the right spot to avoid detection and more than once I have walked right by one.

Sometimes, another creature though can give you a hand in finding them. I have always found Magpies to be useful for this as they do not like the big owls and raise a ruckus when one is in their domain – follow the sound, find the owl.

On this day, it was a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk that helped a friend and I, directing us to the nocturnal predator. I have seen this same hawk hassling the female owl at her nest before and on this day, she was out and about and once again, the hawk did not appreciate her presence. It was making a lot of noise, standing on a nearby branch, making sure the owl knew it was not wanted.

The noise led us right to her and allowed us to get some nice captures. The owl would eventually tire of being pestered, move to a new spot and the hawk would pursue, again raising a ruckus. It was kind of fun to watch although clearly the owl was not amused. 😉

A young Cooper's Hawk stares into the camera. (© Tony’s Takes)

A young Cooper’s Hawk stares into the camera. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Great Horned Owl tries to ignore a Cooper's Hawk that is hassling it. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Great Horned Owl tries to ignore a Cooper’s Hawk that is hassling it. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Cooper's Hawk makes some noise at a nearby owl. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Cooper’s Hawk makes some noise at a nearby owl. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Great Horned Owl keeps watch on a hawk that is hassling it. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Great Horned Owl keeps watch on a hawk that is hassling it. (© Tony’s Takes)

You again!

It had been a few months since I had seen this guy but the other day I finally was able to find him again. This Great Horned Owl’s mate has been sitting on their nest for a month or so and little ones should be coming soon. I knew he couldn’t be far but he had been elusive, as he always seems to be. On this day he must have decided to be kind and not only show himself but also put himself in a nice spot. This pair took up residence three or four years ago in what had been historically a hawk nest.

A male Great Horned Owl peers down from its perch in Thornton, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A male Great Horned Owl peers down from its perch in Thornton, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

Mama has a hard time staying awake

Great Horned Owls are some of the most adaptive owls out there. They have proven that they can survive – and indeed thrive – despite humans oftentimes intruding on their territory. This pretty lady proves that.

She and her mate have chosen to make their home not 50 yards from Interstate 25, the main north-south highway through the state of Colorado. Certainly trees here on the plains can be relatively scarce so they didn’t have a lot of options however one would think they would have preferred someplace at least a bit secluded. Instead, their nest is in full view of passers-by on the highway and a frontage road goes almost right under their nest.

The good thing for someone like me is that I get to watch with very easy access. When I saw her this past Saturday, she seemed to be sitting up high in the nest which may mean there are little ones underneath her. I will definitely have to keep a close eye on the progress.

A female Great Horned Owl has a hard time staying awake while sitting on her nest north of Denver, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A female Great Horned Owl has a hard time staying awake while sitting on her nest north of Denver, Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)