Please don’t use rat poison

“What is everone looking at? Wait, I see a rat in the parking lot. Tell Mom to go get it.”

“I am Dracula. I suck the blood of rats”

“Soon I’ll be flying and can go get my own rat.”

“She’s taking my picture. I need to move over here to the best spot.”

Right before dark all three of the babies lined up and I got a shot of them all together. Both parents had just flown away, assuming to go get dinner. Since they are so curious, they were always looking everywhere. It was so amazing seeing these guys growing up. It really is a privilage to have these owls growing up in such a populated area. I didn’t make it back to the nest after this to see them all grown up.  Unfortunately no one got to see 2 of them grow up. I just recently found out that 2 of them died from rat poison. The third one survived. Maybe he didn’t get to eat as much of that poisoned rat that the parent brought back. This is what happens when people use rat poison boxes. The rats don’t die right away and the owl grabs it to bring back to the nest. These owls are a  natural pest control and the three young ones would have cleaned out most of the area of rats for a while when they first start to hunt.

Guess what’s for breakfast

Mom was digging around in the nest early one morning in February and pulled up a rat. I’m going to be repetitive about using rat poison. Owls love rats. When people use rat poison the rats don’t die right away. They wander off and the owls pick them up and eat them. Owls can easily die from a rat that has eaten rat poison.  You don’t need to use it. The owls (eagles and hawks as well) will take care of the rats.

I spent a good part of the morning waiting for the baby owls to wake up and then  watching Mom taking turns feeding the babies.  Doesn’t that look yummy!?!  It was an overcast day, I was using my long lens and these are extremely cropped up so they aren’t quite as clear as I would have liked. But that’s okay. I’d rather be standing half way across the beach than too close. I didn’t make it back out later to see these little ones completely grown. On a sad circle of life note, I heard that one went missing and a team of people spent all morning looking for it. They think it may have fallen during the night. The area has a lot of coyotes that we don’t see during the day so one of them or an eagle could have gotten it.

The owls at Fort Desoto

Mom standing watch over her babies.

Meanwhile, the babies are acting cute with those curious eyes. Always looking around at the sounds and birds flying by.

Mom moved over to a tree nearby for a while.

Then back to the nest to sit for while before feeding the kids. You could see both sides of the nest since it sits between a trail through the woods and the beach. We were running back and forth trying to get the best shots while the sun was going in and out. I think this is when I got my poison ivy on my ankles. Not paying attention and running around in the small wooded area where the owls nest. One ankle was pretty bad and my foot was so swollen I couldn’t get a shoe on for almost two weeks. That’ll teach me. After 13 years of doing this I’ve been pretty lucky with not getting it before now. Of course now I’m checking everywhere I step or walk.

The baby should have been excited since he was about to be fed but instead he was yawning. Mom was digging around on the nest for something good she had hidden in there. More to come on what that was.

SkyWatch Friday

Spring is here

Trying to get a shot of an inchworm hanging from a tree is like trying to bite an apple hanging from a tree with your hands tied behind your back (I remember doing this as a kid at Halloween parties).  The trees were full of these guys dangling and swaying back and forth in the wind. It’s not a sharp shot but you get the drift.

They were crawling around in the weeds as well. Every year in early March they take over a few of the parks here in the Tampa bay area. Harmless but annoying when they get in your hair.

The inchworms where hanging in the tree that is home to the owls at a local park. Dad was in his usual spot overlooking the big tree.

My first baby owl sighting of the year. He looks a little grumpy, like he just woke up. It was late in the day when I got to the park. The babies were just waking up from a nap and were ready for a snack.

Mom flew up to a branch over the nest.

The babies were watching Mom and one was climbing up the tree trying to get closer to her. Did I say “babies”? There were actually 3 and I eventually got pictures of all of them together but more on those later.

I was sitting at a traffic light on the way home and noticed an inchworm on the inside of my window. He had the nerve to poop on my window and leave a trail. When I got home I got him out and put in on a bush.

A brave Mom defending her babies.

It was drizzling on and off in early February when I first caught a glimpse of the baby great horned owls at Fort Desoto. The two babies huddled together and Mom stayed with them on the nest when I first got there.

After the rain stopped and the sun was trying to peak out, Mom flew over to a tree across the trail. Looks like she was trying to wake up and stretch.

The black hooded parakeets were flying by, being loud and annoying. The owl paid little attention to the parakeets buzzing around.

All of a sudden Mom sits up and looks at something close by the nest.

We all turned around to see what Mom was looking at. An eagle had quietly landed on a branch right near the nest. The eagle started screaming and Mom flew off the nest and chased the eagle away. It all happened so fast that I did not even got a shot of the confrontation.

After chasing the eagle off, Mom came back and landed on the nest. This time she stayed on the nest for a while. The baby popped his head up for a few seconds then went back to sleep. It’s going to be fun watching these guys grow up.

My Corner of the World

The Safety Harbor owls were growing up.

A rare time seeing both parents sitting together high up in a tree while the babies sit below alone in the nest. Although, at this point the babies are big enough to stay by themselves as long as a parent is close by. We usually only see one parent at a time.

After a while, Mom woke up and flew down to the nest.

She only stayed for a few minutes and then took off across the park while Dad continued to nap high above.

The babies were awake and were very curious looking around at all of the joggers and dog walkers going by.

Then this one sits up, stretches and yawns and then plops down for a nap. Time for me to go home and have lunch

 

Photographing New Zealand

Another great horned owl family

Both parents were close to the nest. Mom out in the open in the top picture. Dad was trying to hide in the moss while napping.

Mom eventually flew down to the nest. She turned her back when she was feeding the little ones so I don’t have a shot of that. After a few minutes she left again, flying to a branch nearby.

The little ones sat quietly for while, watching people walk by.

Someone found a pellet right underneath where the Dad was sleeping. We were trying to figure out what he had eaten.

I ran into some friends who were there walking their dog. They stopped to chat for a while but the dog was ready to go. He wanted to be out running in the park, not sitting under a tree while his owners were talking.

The view of north Tampa bay from the park. The owl’s nest sits in a big oak tree in the middle of a parking lot. It’s a main thoroughfare for joggers and walkers so the area is very busy.

Photographing New Zealand

Watching owls grow up.

The young great horned owls are very curious at this age. They were making faces at other birds that would fly by the nest.

Mom flew in for a few minutes and then took off.

They started yawning and looked like they were settling in for a long nap.

The view of the nest taken with my phone where we were standing. The nest sits right on a main trail and is very visible when people are walking along the beach.

Growing up in a tree.

One of the great horned owl parents keeping an eye on the nest.

The baby great horned owls are very cute at this age. They were very curious and would bob their heads when a mockingbird or osprey flew by. They spent a long time looking around and then finally facing Mom in the other tree. They eventually dozed off.

Mom didn’t move all morning.

These were all taken in mid-February with my zoom lens and extremely cropped.

Fun flying faces

Red bellied woodpecker

Carolina chickadees

Yellow crowned night heron

My favorite little titmouses.

A young mockingbird

Northern parula

Osprey flyby

Juvenile little blue heron in a sea of green and purple.

Curious baby great horned owls from high up in a pine tree.

A few birds in June at Chesnut Park.

SkyWatch Friday