Posts tagged “Great Horned Owl

Owl and Flowers

Golden Gate Park.

They Grow Old So Fast

Fledgling Great Horned Owls learn very quickly the power of an angry glance. Above, we see a sweet youngster relaxing in the woods. He is blissfully unaware of my presence and his cherubic face reflects it.

Below, he switches to his menacing look as soon as he notices me. The drastic change is alarming, impressive, and amazing.

Disturbed by Crows

Waking up when you should be sleeping is never fun. This Great Horned Owl calls to its partner who responds through the cacophony of mobbing crows. Eventually the corvids gave up and silence returned to the trees. The two owls ended up perched side by side in an unphotographable spot and stopped hooting.

Gull Fate

This Great Horned Owl pellet includes a Heermann’s Gull bill.

Slow Owl Day

I dropped in on the Golden Gate Park Owls and it seems that two of the four kids have dispersed. I found the remaining pair and a parent in full sleepy-time mode.

Here is the full scene. It’s easy to walk by them if you aren’t looking for them. Usually the 10-20 telephoto lenses point out the owls for you but it was quiet last Friday.

Just a full wing stretch before turning around, tucking up a leg, and dozing off again.

Owl on the Rocks

The Marin Headlands has always been a great place to see owls… but “owl rock” has been quiet lately. Luckily I happened to see this Great Horned Owl moving behind some flowers just in time to pull over and get these shots as it flew into a favoured overhanging oak.

Owl Encounters

The young Great Horned Owls at Golden Gate park continue to amaze and delight visitors. Please be respectful of their space and comfort. None of these images were taken by encroaching on owls and making them uncomfortable. Many portraits show owls staring at the camera (like they might if they were alarmed), but these were just a few curious glances during what was un-manipulated natural behavior. Close-ups are made possible with a long lens, careful attention, and a bit of wonderful luck. I’m glad to be able to share such a thrilling set of encounters.

(above) An intense focus permeates every flight as they fixate on their destination.

Waiting out the daylight and watching the hillside for any signs of movement.

Spotting prey on the hillside behind me, the owl leaps into action.

Leaving to reunite with its siblings.

Slightly off kilter but still curious about a Downy Woodpecker foraging just above my head.

Even when preening owls stay on the alert.

Their flight skills are finally well honed – much more graceful with fewer clumsy landings.

Wind-blown, this owl glances down at me as we both listen to Red-tailed Hawks screaming in the sky above.

Perched with the reservoir beyond, a squirrel hopping over my feet attracts attention.

Cruising around the park in late afternoon light.

It still amazes me how silently they can float through the trees.

Plenty of toppled trees mean lots of places to perch and preen.

When they are comfortable they often look comical or curious rather than fierce, though they can revert to fierce in an instant.

Squirrels keep tempting fate. This one actually charged the owl causing it to lose balance.

Leaping into the air with authority.

*Bonus Behaviour: This young owl started grasping and plucking the nearby tree branch. Confusion? Vegetarianism? Actually I think it was just getting in little practice at plucking prey. I never actually saw it ingest leaves, just rip the branch to shreds.

Golden Gate Park Owls

The four young Great Horned Owls of Golden Gate Park’s Stow Lake are on the verge of dispersing. They have been the darlings of bird watchers and photographers for the last few months. Now capable of catching their own rats (the squirrels seem too elusive for the moment), they are becoming competition for their parents and will eventually leave or be escorted from the area. I haven’t been out to see them much this season but I did spend an evening with them last week.

Owls often look fierce but this one just looks frustrated. I’m guessing this isn’t the first time it has been tormented by the squirrels.

Stretching in the early evening light, the owls prepare for nightfall.

This youngster stays tucked in the longest. Perhaps it had a mid-day meal and is in less of a hurry to hunt. Below, one of its sibling has other ideas.

Success! An almost casual hop into the grass produced a large rat. After making quick work of its meal, the owl settled in for a rest (below).

The squirrels were pressing their luck and tried to sneak down the trunk past the resting owls. The result was this lunging dive straight down the trunk in an attempt to pluck the squirrel off the tree. You can see it escaping down the right side of the trunk.

Having missed its target, the owl pulls out of its dive and, while I’m not one to anthropomorphize, I sense frustration.

This is the same evasive little squirrel. As comfortable with people as with owls I guess.

It really is wonderful to get the chance to see them at close range. There is something to be said for urban birding. The close quarters brings its own challenges but also creates a familiarity/comfort that is hard to find among birds in far flung wilder places. I guess this reverts once you get so far away that lack of exposure brings a comfort aided by ignorance (i.e. the Dodo).

In the dying light I managed this shot of one of the owls rejoining its siblings. They were now very active and calling from all over the hillside but with no light and a long commute I called it a night.

Bonus Bird: Things often happen when you are waiting for birds to do something interesting. This little Downy Woodpecker landed about four feet from me while I was watching a motionless owl. It flitted about for two minutes softly tapping the branch and then jumped into a cavity to roost for the night. While this was going on, the motionless owl executed a beautiful full-body wing stretch that I could only watch from the corner of my eye, my camera settings having been changed to accommodate the woodpecker. A lesson learned…


Great Horned Owls

Spring seems to be the time for seeing Great Horned Owls in and around the city. Tennessee Valley has always been a reliable place to spot them. I had walked to the beach and back with no luck last week when this owl finally appeared just as I was getting back to my car.