Friday, April 6, 2012

Great Horned Owl and Young

We headed to my sister-in-law and brother-in-law's place for the afternoon today, and enjoyed the warm sun on the deck while the kids played with their cousins leaving us to a great visit.  Being situated in a beautiful spot half way up the Niagara Escarpment, I got distracted often by the many Turkey Vultures lazily circling the bright blue sky, often close overhead.  When I finally got the camera out, they decided to keep their distance.  Earlier a pair of Red-tailed hawks had landed close by in the crown of a spruce close by, calling to each other with their famous forlorn but piercing cry.  Of note, this cry is what you almost always hear in the movies, even if the bird is an eagle or other raptor.  

Great Horned Owl nest - as close as we could get from the top of  a ridge.

At one point Jer mentioned he had heard of an owl nest down the road and thought he knew the general location.  With no need to ask me twice, we headed off to see if it could be found.  With little effort, the nest was spotted about 50m from the road.  The large stick built nest was in the crotch of a large tree centred in the middle of a ravine the road followed.  Almost right away we saw movement in the nest.  Then, the sighting of characteristic, widely spaced tufts and the size of the bird produced the excitement of knowing it was a Great Horned Owl!

Great Horned Owl nest with young

I've only been sure of seeing an owl twice before in my life, both only being a silhouette as I drove in early morning.  One was perched on a road sign and the other on a hydro line.   The latter I had enough of a view to be quite certain it was a Great Horned Owl, indicators again being the "ear" tufts and size.  The only other time I believe an owl crossed my path was in very late dusk, also driving, when I saw a large bird glided a great distance across the road from one field to another, and the shape just seemed different than what my brain is used to registering as a hawk.

But back to today, even more reason for excitement was viewing confirmation on the zoomed in camera preview that there was at least one young one in the nest.  The white fluffy down, and another set of big yellow eyes was in the photo.  With the sun behind the nest, it was hard to see clearly though.

Great Horned Owl Nest 

To get a little closer view from the opposite bank and avoid the back-lit condition from the road, we crossed the small creek that calls the ravine home and crested the ridge in a farmer's field where we had a nicely lit view of two young owls with a huge parent keeping a watchful eye on us.  At one point while I had my camera glued to my eye, Jer saw a large shadow quietly but swiftly move through the forest and stop as something landed in a large tree off to the side.  We couldn't locate it, but I wonder if it was the mate which may have been drawn in by Jeremy's pretty good whistling imitation of a Red-tailed Hawk.

Cropped image showing the two young owls.

Great Horned Owl Fledglings

This was a pretty exciting find for me.  I've long hoped to see an owl in enough light to clearly see it and get some pictures, but never dreamt I'd get to see young ones as well.  If I lived closer to the location, I'd love to camp out on the ravine's edge and watch the activities of this owl family.  We couldn't stay long as the rowdy young in the relative's "nest" up the road would soon revolt should a meal not be provided there. With Jer on the soon fired up BBQ, a great meal was enjoyed with great visiting.  Thanks for making my day with the owl outing Jer... Oh, and thanks for having us over for the visit Maria - we enjoyed that too!


  1. Great pics of the owl and her young and instructive comments. You would love all the birds in this park, Bri. Bald eagle, several types of herons, osprey, a beautiful red-headed bird (king fisher?). They provide nesting boxes on the top of telephone poles.
    Glad you all enjoyed a nice visit.
    Love, Mom and Dad

  2. Great shots of the owls! How exciting to see some fledglings!


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