Friday, January 29, 2021
“Give a Hoot”… the male Great Horned Owl
On Thursday, 01-28-21, I went out searching for owls. When I go out I’m always looking for “Hoot” the female Great Horned Owl that I’ve photographed and taken video many times this past fall. The last time I saw her was on 12-25-20 in her favorite conifer tree where I’ve spent 3 hours with her. When she woke up she started giving territorial calls back and forth to “Give a Hoot” her male friend. Until today I’ve only been able to get a couple quick photos of him when he was being mobbed by several crows on Monday, 01-18-21 and those photos weren’t the greatest. “Give a Hoot” doesn’t let me get too close to him before he’s off flying even under normal conditions when I’ve come upon him.
Yesterday, 01-27-21, I found and photographed a Barred Owl that I’ve photographed in the past in a slightly different area since the last time I saw it on 01-15-21. I think it adjusted its area slightly because “Give a Hoot” was being mobbed in the exact area where I used to find this Barred Owl.
So today I brought my long lens and other camera gear in my backpack which I normally do and was going back out to find the Barred Owl. First I checked most of the new area, then headed to the area where I usually have found it. I didn’t find it in either place.
Since I was this far into the woods looking for owls, I was now about a 1/2 mile from another Barred Owl that I’ve recently found so I started walking that way. I was about to make the “winter crossing” from one section of the woods I call Area A to another section, Area B , when I heard many crows making lots of noise in the direction of the woods where I used to normally find Hoot. I watched as about 20 crows flew overhead from that direction, but there were other crows still making noise. I’ve spent many hours in the woods looking to find out where “Hoot” is nesting, so I headed in that direction. When I got close to where I last heard the noise I saw a few more crows leave the area. The last time I heard crows making lots of noise in this particular area was when I briefly saw “Give a Hoot” on 01-13-21 after they were mobbing him. I wasn’t close to him before he flew off while I was watching him through my binoculars. There wasn’t any time to get my equipment out.
I walked slowly until I got in the area where I figured the noise from all the crows had come from when I spotted “Give a Hoot” in the distance. I could see him, but he was hidden by many branches. I got out my camera and lens from my backpack, but he flew off. Since I had the camera set up I slowly walked in the direction he flew and after 15 minutes or so I saw him again. I was able to get a couple of long shots, but he was still being blocked by some branches.
While watching him from a distance he flew off again, so I packed up my gear and placed it back in my backpack to go home. Before leaving I walked to the edge of the tree line in Area A looking with my binoculars over to Area B where “Give a Hoot” flew. I eventually spotted him and estimated I was probably 75 yards away. I got out my camera/lens and tripod and stayed where I was at while I took some photos and video of him. Last week-end I sat out a couple times after sunset until it was dark out listening for any sounds from “Hoot” or “Give a Hoot”. One of the places where I sat was about 50 yards from where I was now watching “Give a Hoot” tonight. It was probably around 4 pm when he flew to Area B and I knew sunset was shortly after 5 pm.
I figured I would stay out until it was dark out and see what he did…maybe I would see where he went or maybe hear “Hoot” make a call. Well, “Give a Hoot” flew back to my side of the woods at 1741 hrs, but to the general area where I first found him today. I’m not sure why he flew back to the side I was on, but there was a deer near him when he flew off or maybe he was going to visit “Hoot”. Although, if he was going to visit “Hoot” he certainly didn’t bring her a vole or bunny to eat.
I took several video clips of him tonight, but I haven’t gone through them yet.
I’ve been through this section of the woods many times and I have no clue where this two foot tall owl could nest. Although I believe she’s in this section somewhere based upon all my observations of the both of them. I think I’ve looked at every single tree up and down…
Here are some images of “Give a Hoot” from a long distance…the image where he was stretching was shot at ISO 16,000.
Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Once again I went out looking for some owls. I still haven’t found where the female Great Horned Owl is nesting. Earlier this week I went out needing snowshoes while looking for them. Today, I decided I wouldn’t use the snowshoes, but I could go relatively light in my camera gear. I figured I could just walk in my earlier snowshoe tracks to the areas I wanted to check. I recently found another Barred Owl about a mile walk from where this Barred Owl is located. I believe they are different owls because the other owl doesn’t let me get too close, although I was finally able to get a couple photos of it two days ago. This Barred Owl doesn’t have a problem with me being around. This is the same Barred Owl I’ve spent over 3 hours with recently taking photos and video of it. It took me about 3 hours before I located this Barred Owl today. I was beginning to wonder where it was at, because about a week ago I saw the male GHO in the exact same area where I’ve been finding this one. Here are some of the images from today…
Wednesday, January 20, 2021
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
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Monday, January 11, 2021
Tuesday, January 5, 2021
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.
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!