Tuesday, September 15, 2009

An Afternoon Trumped by Owl

Yesterday afternoon I swung by Plaster Reservoir in Broomfield to see if there were any fall migrants about, specifically if there were any early or transient waterfowl arrivals. What I found were more Coots than I have seen there in the past. After squinting against the sun and counting I headed on to McKay Lake which is just down the road and into Adams County. McKay Lake has a great bit of wood land that had been good for warblers in the spring. It has also always been tantalisingly prime Owl habitat, but had yet to produce.

Until yesterday that is, when, as I entered the wooded area this Great Horned exploded from the brush at my feet and silently soared to a new perch a short distance away. I really like that in the picture above the difference in pupil dialation is visible. Those eyes are highly sensitive for low light visibility, and even the shade of a beak is enough to make a big adjustment necessary.

I love the texture in this Owl's plumage coloration. It makes Great Horneds so difficult to see, but when you find them you can lose yourself in the complexity.
I am always on the lookout for owls, especially Great Horned Owls. They are such a wildcard species - they can be around in almost any brushy or wooded habitat, and are common enough that they "should" be around on any given walk. That said, they are so difficult to pick out that on finding one I always get a rush. Of all the common year round species the Great Horned is the one that will always be a highlight when seen.
Summer is frustrating with Owls because they are so much more difficult to spot than in winter when the leaves have dropped. In yesterday's case I was lucky to have this owl abandon its perch near the trail as I walked along. I was crestfallen when, after it landed in its initial perch it managed to depart, in the briefest of moments, while I wasn't looking. Fortunately, (none of the first pics made this post), it had flown to the ground and an American Kestrel began to mob it without mercy. While I couldn't see the Owl, I waited as the Kestrel continued to make low passes over some brush, and scream repeatedly from its two alternating perches. Eventually the Kestrel departed, and with a few more minutes of patience I was treated to the Owl reemerging and rising to the more open perch offering the view above.
I wish I knew if the Owl had made a kill when it was low and being mobbed, but regardless the interaction between the two was really entertaining. More so, because a year ago I would not have recognised the interaction that was happening, nor had the foresight to remain still and wait for the Owl to return to a higher perch.

Waiting on the owl ate up most of my time, fortuantely I had this Wilson's Warbler on a close low perch at my first stop, so this post can get a bit of well deserved diversity and color.

1 comment:

  1. Dave, you got some excellent photos of both birds! What a great experience with the owl!