Beyond the BackyardCircle B Bar Reserve

Learning to Climb – Barred Owlet

Just as the Great Horned Owls fledged, a new family of owls gained instant popularity at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  A pair of Barred Owls nested in a tree right off one of the main hiking paths.  When the Barred owlets emerged from their nesting cavity, they immediately became some of the most photographed birds at the reserve.  Who can resist this face?

Barred Owlet Learning to Climb
Barred Owlet Learning to Climb

When I arrived, one of the two Barred Owlets was high in the oak tree (the same tree where his nest was).  The other owlet had taken a tumble and was hopping around on the ground.  His instincts told him to move up.  The closest tree?  A palm tree, growing underneath the oak tree.  So he hopped up into the palm and proceeded to climb the trunk.  There was just one problem…

Stuck at the Base
Stuck at the Base

…it’s easy to get stuck in the base of the palm tree when you’re a small owlet!  He went in circles around the trunk, clawing and flapping his way up the base.   He kept looking up into the oak tree, trying to figure out how to get back up to his nest.

Where were his parents, you ask?  Weren’t they worried about their fuzzy offspring?  After all, owls are not supposed to hang out in palm trees.  But these parents understand that little guys learn by experience.  So they sat in the trees overhead, supervising from a distance.

Parental Oversight
Parental Oversight

The adults were actually more photogenic than the babies.  They stood posed among the mosses, looking at me with those big eyes.  Both sat by themselves for a long while, each keeping an eye on an owlet.  Then one flew off.  When he came back, he had a snack…

Bringing in a Snack
Bringing in a Snack

A nice grasshopper!  I assumed it was for one of the babies.  But the adult didn’t fly towards an owlet.  Instead he flew to his partner and handed off the snack.  What a nice daddy!  The adults then had this wonderful moment of nuzzling and preening each other.  It was very sweet.

Kiss
Kiss

The moment didn’t last long.  The adults resumed their positions of watching the babies.  The baby in the oak tree occasionally dropped “presents” on the photographers below.  The palm tree baby managed to maneuver his way out onto a palm frond.  He ventured higher and higher, still trying to get back into his oak tree.  The little guy has a lesson to learn: sometimes you have to backtrack in order to reach your goal!  Or…

Morning Nap
Morning Nap

If you can’t reach your goal, then sleep on it!  The sun came out for the first time as it hit the little owlet’s face.  Look at that face!  Isn’t he cute?  He stayed tucked in between palm fronds all morning, so I had to resort to a little Photoshop to remove a frond from this close-up portrait.

Barred Owl Head Shot
Barred Owl Head Shot

I left the owls and took a nice long hike around the trails.  It was so good to be out!  When I checked back in on the owls before I left, the owlets hadn’t moved, and Mom and Dad were still supervising.

I’ll leave you with one more shot of the parents as they preened each other.  What a wonderful little family!

A Little Preening
A Little Preening

Note that I photographed these birds from a respectful distance using my 500mm lens and teleconverters. Please, please be respectful of the nature that we are so privileged to observe and photograph!  The safety of our feathered friends is far more important than any photo.

5 thoughts on “Learning to Climb – Barred Owlet

  1. First of all, I LOVE your closing comments about bird photography. :-)
    Secondly Jess, these owls couldn’t be any cuter! What a fabulous experience!
    Wish I could have been there. Hope that you have more.

    1. Thanks Deb. I didn’t go back. The place was overrun with photographers and it made me a little sick. You would have loved cheering on the little guy as he tried to climb the palm tree, though! I can hear your voice saying, “no, you need to go DOWN to go up!” Haha

  2. Great post, Jess and glad to see you got out and enjoyed the beautiful weather. Parental Oversight is a beautiful image. Prize winner!!

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