Saturday, April 5, 2014

Baby Owls!!!

   Thanks to my amazing parents, I finally got the lens for my camera I had been wanting. I decided to walk around, just for a few minutes, to see if I could get some decent photos. Turns out, I was out there repeatedly for hours. I expected to get maybe a couple photos of the common birds - robins, cardinals, chickadees, and such - but I was totally wrong! As I  took a few steps into the field behind our house, a Great Horned Owl was sent flying from the line of pines. The bulky bird landed in one of the hackberry trees on the opposite side of the field. I whispered prayers of "don't fly" to myself and ran as close to the owl as I could. She flew once again and was soon mobbed by a male Cooper's Hawk and several American Crows tossing threatening "caws." I snapped some shots of her in flight; nothing great, though, for the lighting was terrible.
   The female Great Horned Owl circled back and this time the Cooper's Hawk did something absolutely incredible...he literally landed on the owl's back! I was so fortunate to capture this in photo, even though only the silhouettes of the birds were visible. The owl landed in a different hackberry tree than before and then a pine, but both only very briefly. Then she was off for the last time with the same hawk and crows and even some screeching, tag-a-long Common Grackles chasing her. That was definitely an exciting performance, but the best was yet to come.

Cooper's Hawk "surfing" on a Great Horned Owl. Click for a larger image.

   I started wandering now, hoping that the owl would return so I could get an even better photo. I came to a house with a pool in the backyard, and it was hilarious, for a male Mallard flew right in to take a dip. I glanced up in the pines and a bird, somewhat long and slim, and perched very upright, caught my eye. I walked over with my breath held in and muttered "Oh my goodness. It's a baby Great Horned Owl!" I did exactly what any other normal person would have done if they saw a baby owl. I grabbed my camera, and with shaking hands, began snapping photos. Every now and then I would stop to look at the bird with my binoculars which were harnessed around me. The little guy's yellow eyes stared me down suspiciously. I looked around, expecting to find the adult owl nearby, and found another baby owl!

 Click for larger image.

   The second little owl turned his head (rotating 180 degrees) and took a peak at me. The poor little dude was sopping wet. I finally ran to tell my siblings and mother about the baby owls and they came out to see. We all marveled at their cuteness. Eventually, I left the owls, only to return on and off throughout the day.
   In the afternoon, my brother came to me with a feather in his hand. He asked if it was an owl feather, and it sure looks like one to me.

Contour feather of a Great Horned Owl.

   This feather was probably plucked off the female Great Horned Owl that was assaulted by the Cooper's Hawk and American Crows earlier.
   Let's fast forward to the next day. I was doing my chores upstairs when my brother stormed in excitedly saying that there was a baby owl in the grass beside our neighbors' fence. I grabbed my camera, ran downstairs, then outside to get a good photo. Surprisingly, the little dude let me get very close. I'd walk, stop and take a few shots, then walk, stop and take a few more shots, repeatedly.

Click for a larger image.

All of a sudden, the baby owl raised its wings and back a bit, clapped its bill, and hissed at me. This (I'm sure) was a sign of defense; he (or she) wanted me to stay back. 

 In the defense posture. Click for a larger image.

   I came back inside and watched from the window. The owl hopped on his long legs to the tree line and hid in the brush. Once again, I went outside and walked to where I had seen the owls yesterday. An adult Great Horned Owl flew from the tree, closely followed by malicious American Crows. In the tree from where the adult owl flew sat the second baby owl. He (again, or she) obviously wasn't leaving that tree.
   From our window, I've spent my day constantly checking on the owl hiding in the brush. I can see his big, round, yellow eyes staring alertly.

More photos follow. Simply click on the image for a larger portrait.


  1. Great series and interesting story. Being a bird photographer myself, I was wondering what lens did you get and what camera do you use?

    Rick Phillips

    1. Hi Rick!

      Thanks for the comment! I have the Canon EOS 70D SLR with the Ultrasonic IS 100-400 mm lens. I just got it, so I'm still getting used to it, but so far so good.

    2. I have heard that's a great setup. When you get some shots also post them on the Tennessee Birding facebook page. I'm finishing up the semester and just don't have much time to get out right now...right when things are starting to migrate! I have some photos on Flickr if you're interested: Now, go get some bird shots! haha

  2. These images are stunning and the owls are so cool! I also like birds and bird photography...and I'm also 14! I've been doing bird-watching for 8 years...
    Wow, are you the Young Birder Of The Year? I'm impressed...I'd like to take part of the contest next year, but I don't know if I can because I'm from you know that? If you do, please let me know, it would be so cool for me to take part of it! ;D

    Can you look at my blog by the way? Here you have the link: It isn't as professional as yours, but I do my best! :)

    1. Hi Irene,
      Thanks for your comments! Your blog is really incredible! Your photos are quite amazing! I'm not sure if you are able to do the contest. In the past, you had to live in North America to participate, but the rules might have changed since then. I'll look into it further soon. Good birding! ( '<>' )