Owl Week ends with reader photos

April 21, 2012 • 6:22 am

Without any solicitation on my part, no fewer than five readers have sent me pictures that they took (or obtained) of owls.  So let’s finish off our tribute to the Strigiformes with some reader photos.  As always, click the photos to enlarge them.

Reader Sean sent pictures of great horned owls (Bubo virginianus) taken at the Stanford Linear Accelerator, where he works:

Here’s a just fledged great horned owl, after being raised on a ledge on a large concrete building at SLAC (nee the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center).  He had just attempted to fly and was found under some equipment roughly earthward from his/her former perch.  Pretty much claws with wings, IMHO.  The photos were not taken by me, but were in the SLAC on-line newsletter (I have no idea who took them).  The second photo of same bird after a another few months of rehab/fledging, looking much more like a (small) great-horned owl.  The third shot is of the two owlets and mom(?) still on ledge.  Chronological order of pix is 3-1-2. [JAC: I’ve put them in chronological order.]

The details are that end station B is one of the large concrete buildings on the SLAC site that was used for electron scattering experiments (electrons from the accelerator hit a target inside the building and are scattered into a detector).  It produced the first experimental evidence of the quark model of the nucleus, which was awarded a Nobel way back when (in end station A, but that is a different story).  It has been under-utilized in recent years.  I’ve been retired from the facility for a few years but have a real fondness for the place.  The ledge where these owls hung out is about ~50 feet off the ground and inaccessible to cats and other predators.  In one of the articles it was mentioned that the owls wouldn’t make their own nest but would appropriate a raven nest that was already there.


Regular Ben Goren sends a picture he took.

Thought you might enjoy this portrait of a denizen of the Phoenix zoo, one of their Burrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia). Notice how the pupils are differentially dilated in response to the different light levels on each eye….


Another burrowing owl from reader Pete Moulton:

In case no one sends other photographs of them, here’s a Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) for your owl extravaganza. Not the most Arcadian setting, I’m afraid, but you play ’em as they lie, as it were. A pair of these ultra-cute little brown R2D2s has lived in a storm sewer at the Scottsdale Community College campus for as long as I can remember.


Reader Dave sends two photos of a barred owl (Strix varia):

I’ll see your Great Gray Owl and raise you a Barred Owl from HELL.

Took these photos right outside my back door in northern Ontario in February of this year. He was a big fellow but didn’t seem the least bit perturbed with me taking flash photos of him.


And finally, my old friend Avis James (her mother is an ornithologist, and gave her a birdy name) sent me photos of a great horned owl who lives in a Home Depot (to non-Americans, that’s a big chain that sells fix-up-your-home stuff) in Las Cruces, New Mexico:

The most reliable place to see a Great Horned Owl in Las Cruces is at the Home Depot.

They have been nesting there for at least ten years. Note that the garden center has two pallets that are left alone for the owls to nest on (marked “OWL NEST” in one of the pictures), which I find endearing. You can see where there have been hanging out because there are streaks of poop on the wall. They do fly off to forage, but nest there in the garden center. They have successfully brought off chicks!

So ends Owl Week.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this taloned and feathered marvel of natural selection that is known as an owl.


30 thoughts on “Owl Week ends with reader photos

    1. I second that! Lovely photos guys! What sweet owls.

      I have been trying to spot a Morepork – the owl endemic to NZ, but having no success so far. I’ve heard that playing a sound clip of a morepork will attract one, so I’ll try this in combination with offering a moth (if I can catch one)

    2. I wouldn’t object…but, personally, I think I’d vote instead for order-of-the-week (or family for sufficiently large orders). This week was Strigiformes. Maybe Lepidoptera next week, and then Orchidaceae the week after, for example? Could be a lot of fun.

      And, of course, every week will always and forever more also be Felidae week, regardless of whatever else Jerry sees fit to post. Couldn’t have it any other way.



            1. Yeah, it’s the smallest of the Big Whites, but it’s still magical.

              I’ve got the 400 f/2.8 now, which is simply indescribable. Amazing enough to be worth the pain of hauling it around. But I just know I’ll find myself in a situation where the 400 is impractical and I’ll be glad I’ve held on to the 300.


              1. Holy crap! Good on you for: Affording those big boys(!) and hauling them around.

                I’m a PENTAX guy, which limits the OEM lenses available. I’ve got a TAMRON 70-200 f/2.8 (APS-C, with 1.5 crop factor: 105-300); the PENTAX 300mm f/4;

                And I’ve just sold some lenses to get the SIGMA Sigma 150-500mm F5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM (which has both the HSM and OS functional for PENTAX).

                I love the first two and the SIGMA is reputed to make extremely sharp images with good IQ all around and extremely good on CA. (We’ll see…)

                Like you, I end up picking and choosing — you just can’t haul everything! I like the zoom ranges of both the 70-200 (near-perfect range for a middle tele) and the 150-500 for more reach.

                Sometimes I just take my little LUMIX LX5 ;^)

              2. The lenses were a big part of why I went with Canon in the first place, and the top reason why I can’t imagine switching to another system.

                There’s been a lot of sound and fury of late (of course, signifying nothing) about the relative merits of the Canon 5DIII and the Nikon D800…but, the fact of the matter is, there aren’t any real-world situations where the 5DIII doesn’t have enough image quality but the D800 does. If the 5DIII won’t cut the mustard, neither will the D800 — and your real solution is medium format.

                And, as good as the Canon bodies are, it’s the lenses where Canon really shines. The 400 f/2.8, at a tad over eight pounds, is a damned heavy lens. But Nikon’s version is over ten pounds. Canon’s TS-E 24mm is perhaps the greatest wide-angle lens ever made for the 135 format; optically it stands alone, and it’s got movements almost on a par with those of a view camera. Nikon’s PC-E 24 isn’t even close to the same league. Canon has a 17mm version of the 24 that’s almost as good, but Nikon’s PC-E line doesn’t go wider than 24. Nikon has nothing remotely like the MP-E 65 macro that goes from 1:1 at the wide end to 1:5 at the tight end — you can fill the frame with a single grain of rice. And more.

                I remember considering the Tamron 70-200 you’ve got, and may well have bought one if the local pro shop hadn’t come into a used copy of the Canon version for a few pennies cheaper. From what I understand, the Sigma does just fine out to 400 and is a very reasonable way of getting to that range. And, though I don’t know anything about the Pentax 300 f/4, I can’t imagine anybody with the resources to make such a lens not doing a really good job with it.

                My only non-Canon lens is the Tamron 28-75 f/2.8, and it’s a pretty good lens. Autofocus is slow and noisy, but there’s nothing to complain about optically (even if it’s not one of those “magical” lenses). What I’m personally somewhat excited about, though, is their not-quite-yet-availalbe 24-70 f/2.8 with their version of image stabilization. If it holds up to expectations, It’ll become the go-to standard zoom of choice for an awful lot of pros. I don’t shoot zooms in that focal length range enough for me to plan on buying it (it won’t be cheap), but I might think about selling my 28-75 and putting the proceeds towards the 24-70 at some point if the reviews hold up.

                Aside from the “real” gear, the luggable stuff, the only other camera I have is on my iPhone. I’ve never been the type to take snapshots, but I actually have used the iPhone for a bit for that sort of thing — you can’t get any more convenient, and the image quality is pretty darned impressive for what it is.


  1. I used to work in the lumber yard of a Home Depot competitor. We used to keep pallets of bird and grass seed outside and sometimes they would become overrun with small field mice. Dozens would scatter every time we moved a pallet of seed. So these owls are likely well-fed and providing a useful service to the business at the same time.

  2. I just love owls. I have banded chicks of eagle owls (Bubo bubo), which are considerably bigger than great horned owls, and those chicks had gigantic claws with razor sharp nails of several cm long. But they didn’t use them in defense against me at all. They just make alarm “clicks” with their beaks. Very much unlike the chicks of falcons and hawks which will use their talons to squeeze every drop of blood from your hands.

  3. I didn’t know there’s a burrowing owl family at SCC. The next time I’m expecting to be in that part of town with a bit of free time, I’ll have to make it a point to have a visit.


    1. It’s the storm sewer you cross over on the way into the main parking lot, Ben. The owls are usually down in the drainage west of the parking lot entrance, but you may find one out in the actual parking lot too.

      1. Would that be the lot on Southern next to the stadium, or the lot on Dobson across from the hospital? I’d guess the one on Southern, but for some reason I had thought that it was the one on Dobson that was the “main” lot….


  4. I guess I’m unobservant… or at least not a birder. I’ve been to that Home Depot a half-dozen times and not noticed any owls.

    1. If you search the upper east and south walls, you can usually find an owl. The poop on the walls are good pointers of where they sit.

  5. Enjoyed owl week! Especially the great gray photo above. I only wish my own owl photo had made the cut.

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