Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Spotted Owl Family

Click on photo to enlarge

You are looking at a very special family of Spotted Owls (Strix occidentalis) in that there are actually 3 babies in this nest, a somewhat rare occurrence I'm told. The adult female, on the left, is actually feeding the third youngster who is hidden behind the other two, but it did pop its head up for a moment.

The male adult, in the upper right, was being a very good mate and father. As we gave him mice, he would take them up and pass them to the female, who would then feed them to her young. If you look closely, just to the left of his tail-feathers, you'll notice the long thin tail of a mouse that he's holding in his right talons, and is about to pass to his mate.

The male took four mice from us and gave each one to the female before they seemed to have had enough fun for the morning and lost interest. This photo was taken at 7:08 A.M. today.

And I apologize for the poor quality of the photo, but these birds live in deeply shaded canyons or groves of trees with very little light for photography. To get a shot like this I had to use ISO 400 (that's why the picture is so grainy), and still couldn't shoot any faster than 1/40th of a second wide open at f/3.5, and its pretty hard to hand-steady a camera at that slow shutter speed (I was lying on a slippery slope in deep oak mulch trying to stabilize the camera on a wobbly fallen branch when I took this one).

But the photo is legible and the owls are beautiful, and I wanted to share them with you.

This picture is for Mary Anne, the first person to take me owling, because I know it will make her homesick. :~)

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Blogger arcolaura said...

"poor quality photo"???! Jim, it's gorgeous!

11:29 AM  
Blogger ACK said...

It's so wonderful that you could capture this moment of domestic bliss!

My grandmother used to have a family of great horned owls in her backyard and every summer we'd watch the youngsters learn how to fly. This photo takes me back!

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This picture is breath-taking; a visual heart-beat! Thank you so much for posting this on a day I truly needed a good shot of nature.

12:45 PM  
Blogger sonia a. mascaro said...

Amazing photo, Jim!
Just wonderful!

4:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yup, it makes me homesick... and it's a much better photo than any I ever got!

10:03 PM  
Blogger Madcap said...

What are the odds of getting a photo like that? It's remarkable. It almost looks like a tinted b&w.

4:24 AM  
Blogger Michael Hawkins said...

Stunning photo, Jim. Thanks so much for sharing it -- and for sharing all the great shots that you post. I stole your bee image from the other day for a post at my place -- I feel as though I've hit the nature jackpot here. You live in a beautiful place.

7:08 AM  
Blogger Deb said...

That is amazing, Jim! What a rare privilege, to witness something like that and be able to share it.

7:21 AM  
Blogger roger said...

the content overwhelms any considerations of quality. thanks for posting it.


8:24 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

laura, ash, and sonia-

Thanks, I like it because it captured what was happening just then and now I can revisit that moment many times over.


I'm glad I could be of help to you, I find more & more that I need a good dose of nature every day.

mary anne-

These owls reminded me of the morning, so many years ago now, when I tagged along with you and Andi, and we watched a pair of owls feed their two juveniles as we sat among the oaks and pines overlooking the Mojave Desert at sunrise.


The odds have a lot to do with being in the right place at the right time, and I just got lucky.

michael hawkins-

Thanks for visiting and I'm glad you like the bee photo too, I was quite pleased with that one.

deb and roger-

It was a rare moment, and I do feel priviledged to have been there, and to be able to share it.

9:26 AM  
Blogger robin andrea said...

That's just beautiful. How lucky to see that, and how fortunate for us that you share it. Thank you.

10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always wondered if you had owl medicine.. :)
what an honor to have them nesting so near to your home. I have a deep affinity for owls, and they couldn't have nested in a better place, where someone will watch over them and guard them with signs. Do be careful approaching the nest though- no photo is worth endangering this already endangered species (but you already knew that).
Happy owling :)

7:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is one cool photo. Everyone should have such nice neighbors.

A fed them mice?

6:02 AM  
Blogger Jim said...


Yes, we were doing a field survey and fed them mice to try and verify how many young they were feeding.

1:32 PM  

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