Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Overcast, but Full of Possibilities

As I had mentioned in my previous post I was looking for the Avocets, and a reported Great Egret at the small drainage ponds behind the King Soopers in Broomfield. I was 50% on those two species, but on a gray spring evening there was plenty to see.

A Say's Phoebe, a flycatcher that can often be seen on any lone tree or shrub rising up above an open grass area, was back and making a feast of a very active and healthy insect hatch. The overcast allowed me to catch the motion of the flight, but kept the detail to a minimum.

The light was fractionally better as this Killdeer noisily arrived on the near bank. After I had circled the ponds and made sure I hadn't missed any other species of shorebirds I decided to head north past a large open space to McKay Lake, where I thought an Egret may have moved on to. I didn't find an Egret, but did add another grebe for the season, this time a Western Grebe.

I wandered back and forth through the clump of woods on the north side of the lake, hoping to catch an owl getting an early start on the night. After an hour or so I abandoned the plan, and in consolation decided to stop by for a quick peek at my 'neighborhood' owl nest. We had an inch or so of pea sized hail on Saturday night, and I was curious to see if that had any effect on the inhabitants.
When I arrived I was concerned, there was no sign of horns above the outline of the nest. Had it been abandoned? I walked closer with my bins and camera, and checked the trees to see if I could make out a silhouette in the trees against the lighter sky in the distance. Still nothing, but then I began to hear a wonderful duet, both adult owls, one from somewhere in the trees, and the other from atop a lamppost over a busy street began to hoot.
At first I was a bit bummed, if they were hooting I thought their nesting attempt may have failed, and they were reacquainting for another attempt. Then, the owl on the lamppost dove almost straight down to the roadside. After returning to the lamppost, and more hooting I suddenly caught motion again:

Both parents had returned to the nest, and each took turns feeding the hungry nestlings. There were at least two, and maybe three there, and after a few excited minutes watching I left them to their dinner.

I left giddy, the owls were doing well enough to be seen over the top of the nest, and hopefully I would be able to see them again with more preparation.
I had one more fun surprise, the last photo above was taken with ISO and Exposure Compensation dialed way up, as the owl had been perched at the top of the post, with a lighter sky behind. The additional light from the streetlight itself was enough to freeze the owl, while the panning and noise gave the background an impressionistic feel. Gotta love gettin' lucky!

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