Pat Hatch's PhotoJournal A blog about photography & other musings…


Male Great Horned Owl

The owls are back in the oak tree near where I live. The female has been sitting on her eggs for about a month now. Still no sign of any chicks—could be any day. I was observing the hollow in the oak tree today that serves as the owl nest. Time was about 5:30 p.m.

Live oak tree hollow used by the Great Horned owls for their nest.

As is usual this time of day, the female leaves her nest for about a half hour or more to feed herself. After the chicks are born, she often brings food back when she returns to the nest. I think one of the reasons she leaves is to allow a cooling-off period for the eggs, a natural and beneficial part of the incubation process. Research has shown that mimicking this cooling off period during artificial incubation improves the hatch rates.

While the female is absent, the male is always close by keeping a watch on things. Today was no exception. Here the male is in an adjacent oak tree about 150 feet away from the nest tree. He let me get fairly close to him as I took this photo—I was about 100 feet away hiding behind another tree trunk that supported the camera and long lens. The camera is a Nikon D90 with 55-300mm telezoom. Flash fill was incorporated to remove the shadows present because of the late hour—about 20 minutes prior to sunset. Taken at 1/200 sec. and f/6.2, ISO 800. I took several shots and he never took his eyes off of me.

The male is quite distinct from the female--taller and grayer, the female larger, plumper and browner.

Stay tuned because things should develop rapidly now. I'll put up some photos of the chicks as soon as they emerge.

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