Beyond the Backyard

Great Horned Owl Nest at Fort De Soto

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Great Horned Owl Family

Two weeks ago, my dad and I drove over to Fort De Soto to photograph the Great Horned Owl nest.  At the time, the owlets were two weeks old.  Ever since I saw Marina Scarr’s highly honored image in the Windland Smith Rice photo contest, I’ve wanted to see a similar scene – the mother owl with her owlet tucked under her wing, with only his face visible, nestled in his mom’s feathers.  I hardly dared hope that I might get a comparable image. We left Orlando at 5am in order to arrive at Fort De Soto a little after sunrise.  With my recent crazy hours at work, I forgot to check for road closures.  We were dismayed to pull up at the entrance gate to find that the roads were closed for a bike race, and wouldn’t re-open till 9:00!  So we returned at 9:00, and the sun was already starting to cast harsh shadows.  We pulled into the North Beach parking lot and joined the gaggle of photographers with long lenses all pointed at the nest.   I gasped with delight when I registered what was in front of me – Mother Owl with not one, but two owlets nestled […]

Year in Review

Year in Review: Favorite Photographic Moments of 2013

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It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is going to be 2014!  As I reflect on my photography over the past year, I find myself very blessed with amazing opportunities, photographing beautiful wildlife and meeting incredible people.  Today’s post highlights my favorite photographic moments of 2013. Sandhill Crane Colts The year started out slow – I had mono, and it lasted three months!  But bird nesting season helped me get back on my feet.  One nest in particular comes to mind, a Sandhill Crane  nest in Melbourne, Florida.  I had the wonderful luck to observe a Sandhill Crane colt on the day after he hatched, and I returned twice that week to photograph him as he made his first steps into the world.  It was truly an incredible experience.  Watching these tiny birds on the nest with Mom is so special.  The experience was all the better for the fun friends who were there with me, as we exchanged silly banter, vied for the best vantage points, and cheered every time the baby stuck his head out from under Mom’s wing! As Debbie might say, I became a craniac this year (ok, every year!).  I also had some fun opportunities with […]

Beyond the Backyard

Great Horned Owls are Fledging

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I’ve had the privilege of watching several owl nests in the past few weeks, as I first indicating in my recent post about My First Trip to the Oakland Great Horned Owl Nest.  I missed the really cute stage when the birds were tiny babies, and Mom tucked them under her tummy as she sat on their nest.  Now the owlets are starting to fledge.  My dad came with me to the nest recently, and he made the comment that these owls aren’t Harry Potter’s owls…but wingardium leviosa, they are certainly starting to fly! I’ve been making at least weekly trips to the nest.  The owls have gotten more independent with each trip.  When I first found them, they were sitting on their nest.  A week later, they were still sitting close to the nest, but they had moved up to a hollow in a slightly higher branch. The next day, they had edged out onto a branch, more than several feet away from the nest.  They are such fun to observe.  They just sit there, perfectly still and silent.  But  their heads turns to watch every move that is made below them.  Their parents are often asleep in a nearby tree. […]

Beyond the Backyard

My First Trip to the Oakland Great Horned Owl Nest

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I was so excited when a friend shared the location of a Great Horned Owl nest – it’s practically in my backyard!  I love to watch nests and see babies grow up, but most nests are far away.  This one is close enough that I can check on it after work.  (I’ve been asked not to disclose the exact location to protect these little cuties.) The owlets are already pretty big.  They were born in early February, so they a little over a month old.  One is a few days older than his little brother.  When I arrived at the nest this evening, the light levels were already getting low, and I had only taken my intermediate telephoto lens with me.  Later this weekend I’ll head back with the Beast and hopefully get a little more light on the nest.  Finally – it’s my turn to photograph some Great Horned Owl babies!  I’ve been watching my friends get amazing pictures while I was still feeling too sick to get out.  Now I get my turn with a nest that’s super-convenient.  I can’t wait for next spring, when I’ll be able to visit regularly and photograph courtship and early baby pictures. […]

Beyond the Backyard

My Turn!

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Two years ago, Dyeyo found a Great Horned Owl nest at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  He showed me his pictures, and I went with him the next weekend to see the babies, but they had already fledged.  Ever since then, I’ve been itching to have “my turn” with Great Horned owlets.  Today my turn finally came at Fort De Soto, where there is a Great Horned Owl nest in an oak tree at the North Beach parking lot. Baby was not particularly cooperative – he spent most of his time facing away from the photographers!  Occasionally he would look our way as he preened.  Then he settled down to sleep.  This was my best shot from the morning.  He’s so ugly that he’s cute!

Beyond the Backyard

Winter Birding at Callaway Gardens

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We went to Callaway Gardens to see the Fantasy in Lights display, but during the day, we had a great time walking around the gardens. There are so many birds at Callaway! The Callaway Birds of Prey show is fun. They pick three of about ten of their birds to display during each show, and they let the birds fly (sometimes right over the spectators’ heads!). It’s interesting to hear about the different birds. The chapel looked pretty surrounded in the fall colored leaves. We were surprised to stick see colored leaves on the trees. Being Floridians, it doesn’t take much color on trees to get us excited! They had also decorated the Sibley Horticultural Center for Christmas. Some of the garden-inspired decorations were very clever.