Moms are well-known for their willingness to sacrifice for their little ones and this owl was no different. As a steady rain fell yesterday morning and little room in the nest for her two owlets and herself, she let them have the relative shelter of the family home while keeping watch from a nearby trash pile. This nest is along a pretty busy roadway so in some ways I can’t blame her – it is undoubtedly quieter, and she got a much-needed break from needy youngsters.
Great horned owl hides in plain sight
You may recall an image I posted a couple of weeks ago of a mama great horned owl and two owlets sitting in their nest in a recent snowfall. After I snapped some pics of the trio, I started scanning the nearby stand of trees looking for dad.
I knew he had to be there, they never go far, but for the life of me, I couldn’t find him. I gave up, got back in my truck and just as I put it in drive, I took one last look and there he was – totally hiding in plain sight.
I was so focused on trying to find him in the usual, hard to spot type places they would be, I didn’t notice he was pretty much out in the open. While the look on his face said he wasn’t too happy about being spotted, he did let me get some shots that looked pretty neat with the snow coating the trees.
Great horned owl mama nestles in with her two owlets
I ran into a friend while out on my photo excursion yesterday and he showed me this nest (thank you!). Situated in trees right next to a pretty busy road, in it we found mama and two young ones. As you can tell, mom was really happy to see me. 😉
As it was mid-morning, the shadows were pretty strong so I actually didn’t even see the owlet in the middle until I got home and processed the pics.
The nest is pretty well concealed, not easily seen despite the public location. It is a bit disconcerting to see them so close to a road but hopefully when the little ones fledge, they will stay out of harm’s way.
Great horned owl family rides out a spring snowstorm at the nest
We are far from done with winter weather here on the Colorado Front Range and that can be challenging for the newest members in the wildlife world. Thankfully, these two owlets have mama right there with them, helping to keep them warm.
Finding this nest was a pleasant surprise for me yesterday, especially since I had yet to photograph any owlets this season. I was out on my photo drive going down a muddy, rural road and glanced over and there they were – reasonably close to the road. I spent some time photographing the trio and even got to see dad as well. A fun find on Earth Day 2023.
Great horned owl on high alert after crows begin hassling it
Imagine you are enjoying a nice, quiet mid-morning nap when you suddenly are besieged by a half dozen marauding crows. Definitely not a fun scenario, whether owl or human. 😉
Such was the case with this beautiful owl. He was minding his own business, trying to take a nap but had chosen a bit more visible spot than what they would normally choose. That was a mistake.
Crows spotted him and perched nearby, incessantly cawing and raising a ruckus. Here, he has just about decided he had enough and was preparing to take flight while watching his tormentors behind him. Kind of a fun pose and a good look at those talons too.
Mama great horned owl makes her nest her final resting place
Not a happy story I am afraid and not one I enjoy sharing. However, I think these types of things can be educational and, honestly, writing about them provides me an outlet when things like this happen and my heart is heavy.
In recent years you have seen many pictures of the “lady of the house” at this nest, her mate and their offspring. This year they looked to be off to another successful mating season. On February 11th I took pictures of her sitting in the nest, presumably then on eggs.
On the next few visits in the following weeks, I could see her tail feathers sticking out but that was all. It was on the third visit a couple of weeks ago that it occurred to me – those tail feathers hadn’t moved in weeks. It was then that I realized she had clearly passed away at the nest in which she had birthed and raised so many young owls.
I receive some, small consolation in that fact. But, there is more to the story…
After coming to that realization and taking this picture, I set out to find her mate and I did, he was in one of his usual spots. As I was snapping pictures of him, much to my surprise, another owl walked out on the branch and passed right behind him – see the second pic.
In talking with a friend that knows far more about great horned owls than I, she told me they aren’t ones to wait and oftentimes will find another mate right away. There aren’t any other suitable nest sites nearby that I know of and it is unlikely they will make the same tree cavity their home but it was heartening to see that in even in the face of death, life goes on.
Great horned owl lifts off
It is very rare to get an action shot of a great horned owl (or at least it is for me). Typically, if they are going to take off, they are going to do it in the most uncooperative fashion, directly away from you.
This owl, however, gave me some nice shots. It was being pestered by some blue jays that didn’t appreciate its presence and it had flown to a spot rather out in the open to escape its tormentors. With the jays dive-bombing it, it didn’t take long before it needed a better hiding place and launched giving me this capture.
You don’t normally think of owls as having long legs but this shows you that they can indeed stretch out and those talons, wow!
American kestrel chases a great horned owl
One of those pics I call ‘content over quality’ as the story behind the pic is way better that the actual image.
I visited my local great horned owls and thankfully, easily found dad in one of his favorite trees. As usual, he pretty much ignored me, continuing his morning nap. In the background, I was hearing the area kestrels making some noise but didn’t think much of it.
Well, I wish I had been paying closer attention because they were apparently not too happy with dad great horned owl being near their home. Out of the blue, mama kestrel dives in at the owl! In an instant, he launches into the air, fleeing his diminutive assailant.
Next thing I know, the chase is on. It all happened so fast, I wasn’t ready and my camera settings weren’t right to capture fast-movers but I snapped away anyway as the owl fled to another stand of trees with the kestrel in hot pursuit. This is the best pic of the series that at least shows the fun bit of action. In he end, the owl found himself a different hiding place and mama kestrel settled down.
Great horned owl is all eyes
Somehow I don’t think dad was too happy I found him. Mama was hunkered down in the nest and all I could see were tail feathers so I began the hunt for dad. It took me a good while but I did finally find him in one of his favorite hiding spots.
He was actually far more well-hidden than this picture indicates as I had to lay down on the ground to get below the intervening brush to get a clear view. So worth it.
Mama great horned owl hunkered down next to the highway
Driving home from my photo excursion yesterday I spotted a large nest and the unmistakable “ears” of a great horned owl sticking up. That, of course, required investigation. I went to the next exit then backtracked along the frontage road. There I found mama sitting in her home and likely on eggs or with little ones under her. Being only 150 feet from a busy interstate probably doesn’t allow her much rest.