Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Inside Hoooot

Great Horned Owl at Northern Illinois University
My passion bird (the bird that changed my interest in birdwatching from a mild interest into a passion) is the Great Horned Owl. This passion started a few years ago when a fellow birder/co-worker gave me a tip on the location of a Great Horned Owl nest in the midst of our university. A cavity in an extremely weathered tree, along a wooded pathway used by many campus students and staff was the nest. This little piece of wilderness within the university soon became my second home.

The owls have been returning to this tree for a few years and seemed at ease among the presence of humans.

This was my first time seeing anything like this. At the time this Great Horned Owl family was a Life Bird for me. I met mama, papa and three babies one year and two babies the next. Many evenings when mama came to feed her nestlings, I captured shots of her with prey in her mouth and adorable shots of the babies trying to eat crow, pun intended.

I witnessed crow, rabbit and duck all being taken from the nest for her babies to eat.
Above mama leaves the nest with rabbit one evening and duck another.
Below baby snips at a corvid meal as mom leaves the nest.

Mama Great Horned Owl is ready for her babies to fledge the nest.
She will only feed them outside their cavity from now on.

Observing this interaction between mama and her babies was an amazing experience.
I was awe struck, still am.
Below mama keeps watch as her babies begin to venture out.

One of her babies is ready and waiting for it's meal. The other is not so sure about that big world outside it's warm nesting cavity. The baby next to mama on the branch above was enthusiastically rolling it's head in anticipation of it's next meal. The baby inside the nest, stayed inside the nest and did not eat tonight.

It is survival of the fittest. The first to leave the nest enjoyed this delicious meal.
With in days all the owlets were enjoying meals outside the nest.
Mama fed pieces of the bird to her baby in addition to allowing her newly fledged
young to pull chunks of meat and feed itself.
The baby even plucks a feather off the bird above.

Hunger is a strong motivator. Mama knew what she was doing.

Practice makes perfect.

Steady now ...

... and flight! Success!

Watching these owls prevail ... 'take wing' was an awesome experience.
Mama stayed close for some time keeping an eye out for her young.All the owlets successfully fledged.

If you enjoyed this post come back soon.
Next Owl Post : Give A Hoooot

It will share experiences and photos with the babies that fell to the ground.
Previous Great Horned Owl Post Whooooo Is It? First of year sighting

Great Horned Owl images by Debbie Miller available now in 2010 Calendars,
Journals and more through Cafepress.com/hooootOwl

Nature-ally Beautiful Cards offers two Great Horned Owl boxed set options:
8 pack 016 Owl Set and 8 pack 017 Owl Set

A collection of my Great Horned Owl photography is also available in my smugmug gallery.

1 comment:

  1. Oh I LOVE this post Debbie! What an amazing experience :)