Friday, December 31, 2021

Hoot, the female Great Horned Owl 12-30-21

 Hoot, the female Great Horned Owl 12-30-21

On Thursday, 12-30-21, I went out looking for the owls. While searching the area for them I came across two two dogs running loose in the woods. One spotted me while I stood motionless, before it ran back in the direction they both had come. Then I heard a female voice. She saw me when  both dogs began barking at me which seemed like forever. All she kept saying was they don’t bite.

Well, besides having to alter my route since the direction she was going was the area that I had a better chance of finding the Great Horned Owls. Now I thought there was no way I was going to locate any owls today after that loud disturbance.

I changed course and walked the general direction they just walked. Still thinking I wouldn’t see any owls I spotted Give a Hoot, the male Great Horned Owl, in the distance. I glassed him to confirm it was him. He was very alert and was doing some preening. Based upon my experience with him when he’s that alert he doesn’t sit still very long. I watched him from a distance before he flew off. He went his way and I went mine, but if he was still in the area I thought there was a good chance Hoot, the female, was still in the area.

Eventually after a couple hours of searching I was searching the area near where I came across the dogs when I spotted Hoot sleeping in a tree. I could tell immediately it was her because of her larger size and her laid back behavior. I glassed up in the tree and saw some branches in the way.

Once I saw her I got my camera/lens out and took a couple shots. There was a very distracting branch across her body so I walked to get a slightly better angle to avoid that branch. I set up my tripod and took some more shots, while Hoot continued to sleep.

Once again I glassed her to see if I might be able to see if a could see a better angle to avoid any branches. Since I’ve been photographing her for almost 1 1/2 years I’ve come to know her behaviors. She would continue sleeping while I walked around. There is one other owl that would allow me to walk around like that and that’s Benny the Barred Owl. I grabbed my camera and walked to another  area that looked promising, but when I took the shot there was another small branch across her body.

While back at the tripod it was now a waiting game waiting for her to wake up. While watching her she briefly woke up and made a call. It was a territorial call without the typical body posture of the normal territorial call. I think its just a way for her to tell Give a Hoot her location. I got a photo of her calling, then turned on the video to capture two more calls. After the three calls it was time for her to go back to sleep.

Sometime during the one hour and forty-five minutes with her I saw what I would describe as a “burp”. Her chest quickly jerked, so I stayed ready at the camera because there was a good chance she would expel a pellet. It was several minutes later I saw her mouth open and she began looking forward and down. Nothing, her mouth now shut. Her neck elongated and again she began leaning forward with her head down and mouth open.  This time she expelled a small pellet. Now she was twisting her head while it was still lowered. She now was starting to expel the second larger pellet.

Once she was finished expelling the pellets it was time for some stretching. I recorded some territorial calls of her calling to Give a Hoot with him calling back to her. He was close by, but I couldn’t see him.

She flew off toward his direction. I packed up my gear and began walking out. Once out of the  woods I saw her perched in the distance on top of a tree surrounded by a large field. She was probably looking for a rabbit. Although, I’ve seen hawks sit in this tree before it was the first time seeing her there.

It was so dark out, but I couldn’t resist taking a shot. I grabbed my camera and sat on my backpack to keep my butt out of the snow and took some handheld shots of her sitting at the top of the tree hunting.  

Hoot, the female Great Horned Owl 12-25-21

Hoot, the female Great Horned Owl 12-25-21

I went out, Saturday, 12-25-21, to look for Hoot, the female Great Horned Owl, since I didn’t find her yesterday. I spotted her up in a tree about 40 yards away. This is the third time I’ve seen her in the same tree and perched on the same branch. I finally spotted Give a Hoot, the male, close by her hidden behind some branches.

Slowly I walked closer, but with the frozen snow/ice from yesterdays warmth I must have sounded like a freight train to them. Give a Hoot wasn’t going to stick around for any holiday photos, so off he went.

When I got all set up just like a few days ago there was one small branch right across her face. I took a couple photos, but that branch was really distracting. Luckily, I was able to find another small opening to where I got the branch over one of the feather tuffs instead of across her face.

We were together for just over an hour before she woke up and moved further along the branch. Again, just like she did the last time I found her in this tree. While having her back to me she made a couple territorial calls and did some preening before she flew off in the direction that Give a Hoot flew off.

I checked a couple areas for the Barred Owls, but didn’t find any/

Give a Hoot, the male Great Horned Owl 12-24-21

 Give a Hoot 12-24-21

On Friday, 12-24-21, I found Give a Hoot, the male Great Horned Owl in a different area that I call Area B. When I checked the normal Great Horned Owl territory for Hoot and Give a Hoot I could tell the area had been disturbed sometime during the day. After I got done searching most of the Area A I crossed into the area that I know Give a Hoot to fly to when he leaves this area. I usually only go to Area B when there is no water or if its frozen where I need to cross otherwise its a very long walk.

I located Give a Hoot where I’ve located him a few times last winter. Although, he didn’t fly away he was less than happy to see me. He was alert and actively hunting.

I stayed with him until 1700 hrs hoping to hear him responding to Hoots calls. A couple days ago when I found Hoot, the female, she called several times to him, but it didn’t sound like he was responding back her. Since I didn’t find her today, although I didn’t finish searching all of Area A, I would have liked to know which area she was in.

One of the reasons was last year, December 25, that was the last day I saw Hoot in her normal area. It took me 39 days to find her in another area, not where I was today, where I saw her two days in a row. It was another 34 days after that before I found her yet in another area on a nest. Last winter It appears that Hoot started nesting shortly after I saw her the two days in early February 2021.

I found Hoot on the nest on 03-09-21. Give a Hoot and her raised two owlets.

Great Horned Owl: Hoot, the female 12-22-21

 Great Horned Owl: Hoot, the female 12-22-21

On Wednesday, 12-22-21, I was back out looking for the owls. It was just before 1400 hours when I spotted Hoot, the female Great Horned Owl, sitting up a tree out in the open. She had her eyes closed and she appeared to be sleeping.

About the same time I caught a glimpse of Give a Hoot off in the distance flying through the woods behind her. He wasn’t perched near Hoot when he took off. He must have had somewhere to go. He was either going to check out the world or maybe he was going to get an early start checking on some possible nest locations for Hoot to choose from when she’s ready to nest.

I knew it was probably going to be another few hours before she would fully wake up to start her day. While setting up my tripod and camera she turned her head away from me and stayed that way for awhile. She hasn’t been the least curious on what I’m doing, but again I’ve photographed her many times in the past and this is her typical behavior. Once I got everything set up it was now a matter of waiting and being ready to get the shot. My plan was to take more photos of her since she was sitting in a good location that didn’t have any unwanted branches across her head and most of her body.  I didn’t take much video of her over the next 3 hours that I was with her just when it got too dark for photos. Most of the video I got was of her doing some territorial calls, but there was a longer video clip of her vigorously cleaning her claws. I’ve included several territorial calls, but I also didn’t include them all.

Hoot continued to doze, but she would occasionally open her eyes. Early on after her eyes were shut for awhile I saw her left eye slowly open. I put my finger on the shutter button just in case she did something. She then vigorously shook her body for a couple seconds or so. I was prepared and captured this sequence and included a couple photos. I call it the “shake”. I’ve captured the “shake” in the past on video and I find it very interesting to watch.

Afterwards it was time for another nap.

Later on she became alert and was staring off in the distance. I looked in the direction she was looking and saw and eventually heard some sounds of someone walking away from me in the distance. It was about 10 minutes later when I saw this person approaching me with a dog. I wasn’t sure what Hoot would do, but I got ready for her to fly off. I motioned for him to go in another direction, he paused, but continued walking my way. I included one photo of Hoot elongating her body and bringing her feathers close to her body to make herself look smaller while watching them. Once that incident passed she was back to dozing with her feathers puffed back out. It wasn’t until about 1630 hours that she started some stretches and some preening. She also started calling to Give a Hoot with several territorial calls. I couldn’t hear Give a Hoot responding while out in the woods nor could I hear him responding on the video. He must have left the immediate area when the person with the dog was walking around. I’m very surprised on how many times Hoot was calling with no response from Give a Hoot.

When Hoot flew off at 1700 hours she only flew about 20 yards away and continued her calling. It was time for me to pack up my stuff and walk out.

Great Horned Owls: Hoot and Give a Hoot 12-20-21

 Great Horned Owls: Hoot and Give a Hoot 12-20-21

On Monday, 12-20-21, I found both Hoot, the female, and Give a Hoot, the male, Great Horned Owl perched in the same tree. I found them after about a half hour of walking at a distance of 40 to 45 yards. Hoot was the most visible when I found them. Give a Hoot was doing his best to hide and was very alert. Hoot was her laid back self snoozing.

I’ve seen Hoot perched on this same branch in the past. A few weeks ago on December 3rd before there was  snow on the ground while scouting the area I found lots of whitewash scattered in a large area on the ground below where they were both sitting. This explains why I was seeing so much whitewash and over a large area.

When I found the both of them I could see they both had some branches in front of them. I watched them for about 10 minutes watching their behaviors before I decided to set up my gear. I decided to get a couple shots before getting any closer to see if I could get a clear view of Hoot. There was no way to get a clear shot of Give a Hoot from any distance, in fact, as alert as he was I figured he would fly away.

While moving to my next vantage point about 15 yards closer, Give a Hoot, flew off just as expected. Hoot opened her eyes and slowly turned on the branch that she was on and looked in the direction where he just flew and she gave out two calls. I interpreted this as, “Hey Give (that’s what she calls him), where you going? It’s only Chuck!”. I wasn’t set up for these two calls. She then went back to dozing for the next couple hours before she woke up and starting do several more territorial calls.

Hoot was her typical self and slept most of my time with her.

Eventually, she flew off in the direction of Give a Hoot. I continued to listen and record them both calling back and forth in the distance.

I was with Hoot for about 2 1/2  hours until 1650 hours when she flew off toward Give a Hoot. It was a pretty cold day standing around watching her.

Give a Hoot, male

Lower left, Hoot and upper right, Give a Hoot