Pat Hatch's PhotoJournal

Life is Good

Perfect day, temperature in the 70's, wind calm, sky crystal clear. All is well in the owl world today. Mom could hardly keep her eyes open.

O-1 on the left and O-2.

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Owl Update

Got some better photos of the babies today around noon. Looks like there are just two this year. Click on the images for a larger version.

Mom and two babies...

Mom seemed pretty relaxed with me taking photos, I think she must be getting used to it after several years now. It amazes me that the flash doesn't seem to bother them at all. It really lights up their retinas and I have to process for red-eye, especially for the adults. She was mostly dozing off or just ignoring me.

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Great Horned Owlets

Mom got off her nest for a while around 4 this afternoon and for the first time I was able to see two chicks peeking out over the rim of the hollow.  So I was able to get a couple of shots on the fly and not disturb them too much.

Two young owlets take their first peeks at the world around them.

Mom was on a branch just above the nest keeping a wary eye on me:

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Female Great Horned Owl

Not much going on this evening. Just mom sitting on her eggs. She looked very relaxed and tranquil as if she is near the end of her long wait. The male was not around, at least I couldn't see him.

Female Great Horned sitting on her eggs.

This was taken in RAW at 300mm, 1/200 sec., f/6.3, ISO 800. The light was very good at a little after 5 p.m. and about 20 minutes before sunset. There were clouds in the west which tended to diffuse the light—I used a little flash fill via the Better Beamer, about 3 stops below ambient. I use the SB-600 flash in manual and adjust the strobe until the image on the monitor looks about right. Final adjustments made in Photoshop.  Click on the image for the large version.

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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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