Wednesday, January 20, 2021

"Give a Hoot" ...the male Great Horned Owl

 On Sunday, 01-17-21, I went back out looking for the female Great Horned Owl…”Hoot”.
I used to go out and find her in her territory on a regular basis. The last time I saw her and “Give a Hoot” her male friend was on Christmas Day. They were both giving territorial calls back and forth. Hoot must have called at least 50 times after she woke up. Today was the 11th day I’ve got out to look for her.

So I walked through the area looking for the Barred Owl, then for Hoot in her tree and her general area. Hoot and the Barred Owl territories are very close to each other and appear to overlap. When I didn’t find her I wanted to check out where “Give a Hoot” hangs out. Without describing the area in detail but as the owl flies its at least 100 to 200 yards away, but it's a much longer walk because its not a direct walk to the area and with the additional snow its not an easy walk.

I’ve seen Give a Hoot flying around in this area from a distance, but I haven’t actuallywalked the area. So today would be the first day.  I walked probably close to an hour when I heard a shriek followed by several barks not far from me. My guess it would be about 30 to 40 yards directly ahead of me. Right after that I heard several crows making lots of noise, but that direction didn’t line up with where I heard the owl call.

I’ve read that a shriek is given by a juvenile sometimes begging for food or a female defending her nest. The owl bark is a response to threats.

I continued to walk to the general area where I heard the owl call and sat on a log about 20 yards from a very large oak tree for about 10 minutes listening.

Once I was done listening I decided to walk in the direction of the crows I heard earlier. I walked about 10 yards toward the oak tree when I heard lots of noise. The sound of crunching snow. I stopped and watched two people on snowshoes maybe 100 yards away. They were downhill of me so they would have to look up to see me. They never saw me.

While standing there watching and listening about 10 yards from the oak tree out flew Give a Hoot from the other side of the tree. He didn’t fly far or at least that’s what I thought, but I needed to wait a couple more minutes before the people were out of sight before I could move and look.

I moved a few feet so I could get a better view with my binoculars, but I couldn’t see the owl.

Today, Monday, 01-18-21, I walked directly to Give a Hoots area. When I got to the area where I heard the shriek and barks yesterday I veered off and walked in the direction where I saw the crows flying and making lots of noise. The area had more conifers but after checking around the area I found nothing that would look like a nest and I didn’t find Hoot. I made my way back over to the large oak tree and again looked for any owl signs. After walking this area for a couple hours I was just about to go across an area that is open water in the summer to another area when I came across two other people on snowshoes and their dog. Not the same people as yesterday based upon their clothes., but Ive seen this couple in the past. I watched from a distance as they decided to come my way. I was going to go in another direction based upon where they were going. I went to the other side of this crossing and immediately  I heard a couple crows starting to make some noise followed my more crows now making a lot of noise. I wasn't very far away.

I got out my binoculars and could see the crows were mobbing a Great Horned Owl. It looked like Give a Hoot. Here's smaller and lighter in color compared to the female...Hoot. I got some photos to document the fact that this was the first time I’ve been able to photograph Give a Hoot. Give a Hoot flew from the tree after a couple minutes with the crows giving chase. As I walked back to grab my backpack I heard and saw the same two people on snowshoes again. They were on the other side of the crossing for only a couple minutes, but now they were back on the side I was on. I sat on a log and had a sandwich as I listened to them making lots of noise as they meandered through the woods. Once they were done which seemed forever I’m pretty sure there weren’t any owls left in this section of the woods.

Once they left the area I went to check to see if Hoot was in her conifer tree, but she wasn’t there. This was my 12th day looking for her..

The tree where Give a Hoot was being mobbed was the same area where I’ve been photographing the Barred Owl lately. Needless to say I didn’t see the Barred Owl today either.

 I don’t know if the people on the snowshoes pushed Give a Hoot to the tree where the crows were mobbing him  or if he was already in the tree. Based upon my previous experiences with Give a Hoot he doesn’t sit tight when he hears any noise, so I'm thinking he was pushed. I’ve described him as the “Red Squirrel” of these two owls.

I’m still looking for Hoot…

 


 Here are a couple images of Give a Hoot.These were the best that I got but they were more for documenting to see if the owl was Give a Hoot or Hoot. I've never been able to photograph Give a Hoot in the past.







Friday, January 15, 2021

Barred Owl...

 

On Friday, 01-15-21, I decided to go out looking for the Barred Owl or the female Great Horned Owl that I haven’t seen since 12-25-20.
 
I usually go out with my camera, long lens, tripod with either the gimbal or lately with a fluid head all in a large backpack. Since the temperature was 35 degrees F when I left and the recent snow very wet and soft, I decided to go light because I would be sinking deeper in the snow. I took my camera with my 75-200 mm f/2.8 lens with the 1.4x teleconverter in a small backpack. There was also some on and off light snow and a light rain.
 
One other reason I was going light was because my plan was to do more walking to see if I could find the female GHO on a nest somewhere other than in her normal hangout.
 
While walking to the general area of the owls I noticed from a distance a large dead bird of some sort in the top of a 25 to 30 foot tree. When I got closer I glassed it and saw it was a dead Wild Turkey. I was just glad it wasn’t “Hoot” the Great Horned Owl I’ve been trying to find.
 
It didn’t take me long before I found the Barred Owl. Although, it was perched when I found it it was actively hunting. While taking photographs it appeared to zero in on some “moving food”. The owl flew from the tree it was in to another perch before throwing itself to the the ground. It was now face down with its wings spread out in the snow, then it lifted its head and looked back in my direction as if to say, well, are you going to help or just stand there looking at me. The owl then planted its face back in the snow before flying off.
 
When the owl flew up it looked like it had a vole or some other small rodent in its right foot. It landed in another tree where I couldn’t see it very well, but the owl didn’t stay long before it flew and landed on its next perch directly above my head. I looked up at it with the camera and took a photograph of it while it was looking down at me.
 
While watching the owl I saw it stand up and turn around on the branch and follow an eagle that flew above and slightly behind it. The owl followed the eagles direction for at least a minute before relaxing. All I can say that’s some hearing, because the owl certainly didn’t see the eagle where it was perched before turning completely around.
 
I took some more photos but decided to go look for the GHO, since the Barred Owl decided it was time for a nap.
 
I walked around for about an hour looking for the GHO, but I didn’t find her. I kept listening to what I initially thought was some dog constantly yelping, but when I was finally able to see onto the ice I saw a coyote making its distress yelp. I glassed the coyote in the distance as it walked and then saw it lay down briefly on the ice before getting back up and walking out of sight in the cattails.
 
Well, I decided to leave the woods the way I came in and found the Barred Owl still in the same tree that it was in when I left it an hour earlier.




 
                        












Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Monday, January 11, 2021

Barred Owl...

 

On, Sunday, 01-10-21, I went back out looking for “Hoot” the name I gave the Great Horned Owl that I’ve photographed several times. This was the 4th time I’ve went out to check on her since Christmas Day, the last time I saw her, when I got to photograph and shoot some video of her calling to “Give a Hoot” her male friend. The past three times I haven’t been able to locate her nor have I heard her give any territorial calls or any screeches.
 
Yesterday, I went out walking looking for her with only my camera and 70-200mm f/2.8 lens with my 1.4x teleconverter. Today, I decided to bring my backpack with camera, long lens, tripod, etc which meant I would need my snowshoes and trekking poles.
 
When I got to the area where I usually begin looking for her I realized I forgot my binoculars, so I’ll have to walk up near the conifer tree where she spends a lot of time in. Not a big deal if she’s there because she’s usually tucked in and she has never gotten alarmed or excited when I’ve approached the tree many times. It’s usually because it’s hard to see her when I glass the tree from a distance. When I think she’s not in the tree only to realize she’s actually in there. 
 
I just took off my snowshoes and backpack off when once again I heard some noise. It was the same two people with their dog walking near the conifer tree and toward my direction. They now have a packed trail in the woods.This was about the fourth time I’ve seen them. I keep telling myself I shouldn’t go out looking for the owl on the week-ends, but here I’m in the woods on Sunday.
When that couple left the area I stayed stationary for awhile before going to the conifer tree. Walking ever so slowly and scanning the tree and the general area, but she wasn’t home. I kept looking just to make sure before meandering around to some other locations I’ve known her to hang based upon sightings or signs… i.e. whitewash.
 
While still looking for the GHO I saw a Barred Owl dropping from a tree onto the ground out of my sight actively hunting .The owl was facing me about 40 yards away when it flew to the ground. The owl flew back up after a few seconds into another tree. I couldn’t tell if it got a vole or not, since I didn’t have my binoculars. 
 
I decided to parallel the owl toward the general direction of my backpack. Eventually I got to an area with an unobstructed view of the owl still 40 yards away. I decided to stick my trekking poles in the ground and took a bearing toward the Barred Owl in the tree. Then I continued walking away from the owl back to my gear. My gear ended up being another another 50 to 60 yards away. 
 
When I got back to my trekking poles the owl was still in the tree so I started setting up my gear. I was just about to set my lens foot onto my tripod when I saw the owl turned its head away from me and stand up. The owl flew away! A few seconds later someone came walking on their cross country skis close to where the owl was perched which was the reason the owl to flew away.
 
This was most likely the same Barred Owl that I spent about 3 hours with in December.
 
Today, Monday, 01-11-21, I went back out looking for the GHO or the Barred Owl. I didn’t find the GHO where I can normally find her, so I continued walking looking for the Barred Owl. When I first saw the Barred Owl it appeared to be actively hunting just like yesterday. 
 
Today after it got done hunting she decided to perch in a nearby tree and it looked like she decided she wanted to go to sleep.
 






 

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Great Gray Owl...

 Over the week-end of Saturday, 01-02-21 to Monday, 01-04-21 I went on a little road trip looking for the Great Gray Owl to photograph. So on Saturday I drove up to the area north of Two Harbors, MN. I heard of some sighting, but I missed seeing any of those owls.

Later in the afternoon I drove over to the Sax-sim Bog to see if I could find any GGO’s over there. I have been there a few times already this winter and usually spend some time on South Overton west of Owl Ave. The last trip to the bog I saw a Great Gray hunting further back in the woods, but I wasn’t able to get a shot of it. I know other people have seen owls in that area as well.

Once I got cell service again I checked the “chat group” for any owl sightings in the bog and saw there was an GGO spotted on South Overton earlier in the morning, but it was to the east of Owl Ave. When I got to the area I made a right turn off of Owl Av to go west on South Overton where I planned to look for the owl, but before I made my turn I noticed a couple cars to the east. After I drove the length of South Overton I turned around and found a place where I would sit when a couple of people pulled up and asked if I had seen anything. I explained to them that I just got to the bog and they continued on their way.

Later, the same couple came by and said there was an owl to the east on South Overton and it had been there for 45 minutes or so. That was about the time when I saw the cars to the east when I turned to go west. Since I was about a mile from there I drove over and saw a few cars and photographers. I noticed a GGO on the top of one of the power poles. I walked over with my camera and tripod. I believe when I looked at my watch when I was parked it was 04:15 pm so the light was going to be fading fast. 

 I took a few static shots, then decided to crank up my ISO to see if I could capture any flying shots, since the owl was actively hunting.

I pushed the ISO between 10,000 to 20,000 to get enough shutter speed to capture the flying shots.

 

 

 

 

 






 


                         





                     


 



 

Now the light had disappeared and the fog was moving in so it was time to stop photographing.  I had to drive all the way down the dead end road so I could turn around. While almost to the end of the road I had to stop for another vehicle in front of me because someone was taking some landscape shots. When I stopped behind them I looked up and saw the owl immediately to my left sitting on top of a power pole. I reached for my camera and took a couple shots. I was almost too close to get the complete owl in the picture, but it was taken with an ISO of 20,000.

 

                                                                      ISO 20,000

On Sunday I set up in my Suburban on the same road as seen in the one image at 07:15 am waiting to see if the owl was out and about. Well, I didn’t see it.

On Monday, 01-04-21, I set up in the same spot at 07:15 am again waiting for the owl. This time the owl landed in the dead tree which was 30 yards directly in front of my vehicle at 07:38 am. This was one of the first pictures I took of the owl after it landed in the tree. It was like the owl was saying, Ok…I’ve arrived. Lets get this photo session going!

                         I parked my Suburban in the same place both Sunday and Monday morning.


 
 



                                                                        Find the eye....

 

 

Other images...







                                                     Not wildlife, but I'll post it anyways