Friday, April 26, 2019

On the Hunt for a Silent Hunter


"Have you seen the owls' nest?" called a man
walking with his wife in the open space along Piney Creek.
We had seen each other several times in the past,
as I stalked deer and birds in the riparian area along the creek

"No?  Where?" I answered eagerly, 
jumping some small cacti and scrambling onto the paved path.


On the Hunt
Piney Creek Open Space
Aurora, Colorado, U.S.A.
April 24, 2019
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved


"Through the tunnel under Aurora Parkway," he gestured north.

"The nest is really easy to spot," added his wife.
"Just look for the gnarliest cottonwood in that stand along the creek."

"Do you know where we mean?  On the left beyond the tunnel.
Just walk along.  You can't miss it," said the man, eyes sparkling.
"You could take some pictures of it."


Through the Tunnel
Under Aurora Parkway
Aurora, Colorado, U.S.A.
April 1, 2018
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved



"I know exactly where you mean!  
And I'm heading there tomorrow ~ with my camera!  
Thanks!" I replied.

I have been roaming along Piney Creek for almost fourteen years.
I have rarely seen owls because they're nocturnal,
and I'm not comfortable walking along the creek at night.
There are coyotes and skunks about, and wild cats have been spotted occasionally.

Cold, windy, and rainy weather delayed my hunt for the owls for two days,
but finally the sun broke through yesterday;
and I was off, through the tunnel to search the cottonwoods.


Cottonwood Stand
Under Aurora Parkway
Aurora, Colorado, U.S.A.
April 24, 2019
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved




Long's Peak in the Distance
Red-Tailed Hawk Park
Aurora, Colorado, U.S.A.
April 24, 2019
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved




The couple was right ~ spotting the gnarliest tree and the big nest was easy.
Pushing through brushes, jumping the creek, and inching closer was not.

I've seen protective Swainson's hawks guarding hatchlings
send people to the emergency room for serious stitching.
I had no reason to think owls with their huge, sharp talons would be less aggressive.


© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved






© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved




Gotcha!  A great horned owl and at least one owlet!
The mother's feathered ear tufts or plumicorns 
and the white patch on her throat were dead giveaways.
Her large yellow eyes were partly hooded, but she knew exactly where I was.
She tracked my progress with her powerful eyes by swiveling her large head. 


Great Horned Owl with Owlet
Red-Tailed Hawk Park
Aurora, Colorado, U.S.A.
April 24, 2019
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved







Following Me as I Move
Red-Tailed Hawk Park
Aurora, Colorado, U.S.A.
April 24, 2019
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





I wasn't surprised to see the owls' nest so close to houses.
Great horned owls are found in a wide range of Colorado's habitats, 
from forests to fields, mountains to deserts, and wilderness to suburbia.

This owl family's nest high in the cottonwood tree was surrounded
by more trees, wide open spaces, a creek, and marshes
teaming with prairie dogs, birds, rabbits, voles, skunks, and squirrels,
a great place to hunt!

Great horned owls usually hunt at night, swooping down on silent wings,
to snatch up their prey in their strong talons.
However, if owlets are in the nest, these owls will sometimes hunt during the day.


Prairie Dogs On the Alert
Red-Tailed Hawk Park
Aurora, Colorado, U.S.A.
April 24, 2019
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved






Happy Hunting Grounds
Red-Tailed Hawk Park
Aurora, Colorado, U.S.A.
April 24, 2019
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved




Great horned owls hatch their eggs in the abandoned nests of other large birds,
often ones made of large sticks high above the ground.
They typically use a nest one year, and may line it with bark, fur, leaves, and feathers.


Mother and Baby
Red-Tailed Hawk Park
Aurora, Colorado, U.S.A.
April 24, 2019
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





In Colorado great horned owls are early nesters,
courting in December and January.
Usually the female lays two or three dull white eggs 
and incubates them for 25-38 days,
while her mate brings her food during the night.
The babies are born helpless and blind,
opening their eyes after eight days or so.
After another four weeks, they venture out onto nearby branches,
and by nine or ten-weeks old, the owlets begin to fly.
They remain with their parents until the fall.


And Then There Were Three
Red-Tailed Hawk Park
Aurora, Colorado, U.S.A.
April 24, 2019
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved



I wasn't the only one observing the baby owls.
An older man had arrived with binoculars,
and others walked closer to see what he was observing.
Good idea, I thought.  I'm coming back tomorrow with binoculars.


The Curious
Red-Tailed Hawk Park
Aurora, Colorado, U.S.A.
April 24, 2019
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





Today  I was back, binoculars in hand, to see the great horned owl family again.
The owlets looked like they had grown overnight.
I bet they'll be creeping around on those cottonwood branches soon.


The Owlets
Red-Tailed Hawk Park
Aurora, Colorado, U.S.A.
April 25, 2019
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved






One Gnarly Home
Red-Tailed Hawk Park
Aurora, Colorado, U.S.A.
April 25, 2019
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





Ahhhh!  Stretching a Wing
Red-Tailed Hawk Park
Aurora, Colorado, U.S.A.
April 24, 2019
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved




You can be sure I'll return to watch these incredible birds.
I can't wait to see the owlets exploring their world.


Three on Me
Red-Tailed Hawk Park
Aurora, Colorado, U.S.A.
April 24, 2019
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved




Till next time ~
Fundy Blue


On the Chad and Sisters Two
On the Bay of Fundy
Out of Westport, Brier Island, Nova Scotia, Canada
July, 2018
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved






For Map Lovers Like Me:


Location of Aurora, Colorado, USA




"My" Open Space Along Piney Creek
Where I Often Walk
Map Data © 2018 Google United States





Adapted from a Sign in the Park
Red-Tailed Hawk Park
Aurora, Colorado, U.S.A.
April 24, 2019
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved




Cairn
Red-Tailed Hawk Park
Aurora, Colorado, U.S.A.
April 24, 2019
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved




22 comments:

  1. What a wonderful post Fundy Blue, excellent photo's
    Have a wonderful weekend.

    Yvonne.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Yvonne! I'm glad that you enjoyed it. I had a lot of fun getting the photos and reading about great horned owls,. Now if I could just get my act together and stop having to create my post late on Thursday evenings ~ LOL! Wishing you a wonderful weekend too!

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  2. You got some great shots! And of course this reminded me of one of my favourite books when I was growing up -- "Owls in the Family" by Farley Mowat.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Debra! I'm a great fan of Farley Mowat, but I didn't read "Owls in the Family" until I was teaching. I read it aloud to my students lots of years. I love that book! Have a great day, my friend! Sending you a big hug!

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  3. Wow, amazing shots of the owls! What a find to see their nest.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Alex! I was delighted to find and photograph them! Enjoy your weekend!

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  4. I don't think I have ever seen an owl's nest, just one bird looking wise on a tree limb like in Winnie the Pooh.

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    Replies
    1. I hope that you eventually get to see one. For me it was a big thrill!

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  5. The little ones are so precious. And so fluffy!

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    Replies
    1. I totally agree, Diane! Have a great weekend, and if you're at a convention or conference, have a great and successful one!

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  6. Oh, My!! That picture of the two owlets staring at you is so vibrant. I have Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat, and it is such a fun and quick read. Thank you for these owl pictures!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for your kind and encouraging comment, Ruth! I, too, have "Owls in the Family" in my bookcases, and I would never part with it. I've read it aloud to my elementary students many times! I need to read it again soon! Have a good one!

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  7. The little owlets, this will be such fun as we follow you as they grow.Great pics, and I guess this will be a popular place for any birder. A lovely family up so high, guess the Mum has a good feeding ground below, a super place to nest.

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    Replies
    1. I plan to share, Jean. I wish I had learned about the owls a little sooner, but i"ll take what I can get. Happy weekend to you and Hugh!

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  8. Replies
    1. Aren't they darling? I was so excited to see them!

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  9. How exciting to see them in the nest!!
    OWL be darn!! HA HA!

    Plumicorns...how perfect is that word? I love it.

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    Replies
    1. Hi, Kay! That was the first time ever that I have seen baby owls, and it was a thrill! "Plumicorns" was one of the words I loved teaching my students. I miss my kiddos, but not the workload nor the politics of teaching. Have a great week, my friend!

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  10. Wow, great shots indeed. I've never seen one up that close with the babies. Sure has her eyes on you. I've seen a few around as they eyed cats and small dogs before. Heard of a few nests here where they were on poles and found cats and small dog bodies up there in the nest. Blah. The larger birds are usually the main culprits of that though. Seen coyotes too, in the day. So from those places I stray.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, Pat! It is so good to see you! I used to tell my kiddos that every living thing has to eat to survive. It's still hard for me to wrap my mind around coyotes in the Maritimes, even though my niece Natalie was doing autopsies on them during her last year at Acadia. She has her interview for vet school tomorrow. I have everything crossed! So what are you doing with all that free time on hiatus? Writing I hope! Take care, my rhyming friend!

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  11. What an incredible discovery! I have never seen an owl out in nature before, only at the zoos. I would have went back with my binoculars as well. Our state park had a few bald eagles set up a nest there a few years back and I was really excited to drive over and have a look at them. Thankfully, they seem to be making a comeback in population, so maybe we'll be seeing more and more of them in the future!

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    Replies
    1. Hi, Theresa! I'm sorry that I missed your comment! It's always good to know that something is making a comeback. When Terry and I went to Alaska a few years back, we were thrilled to come across five balk eagles in some trees. We took a few pictures and then realized why they were there ~ across the road was a salmon hatchery. Don't tell me birds aren't smart ~ LOL Have a good one!

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Thank you for your comments! I appreciate the time and energy you put into making them very much.