March 26, 2014

Birding :: In The Backyard


Yesterday the male owl left the box giving the female a chance to catch some fresh air.  He perched in a nearby shrub where he had a clear view of the nest.  The squawking jays gave his position away.  The female took advantage of his departure and sat napping for the bulk of the afternoon.  She didn't seem concerned as I tidied the patio and kept an eye on her.  

She is bigger than the male and her markings look darker to me.  When she sits at the opening more of her body leans forward giving a better glimpse of her full head.  The male typically has his head pulled back more and his ears aren't as visible.  

female Eastern screech owl 2014

The female from the last family we hosted in 2012 was red and much easier to distinguish from the male who was gray.  She was a beautiful owl and had such a fierce, stern look about her. 

female Eastern screech owl 2012

Judging from the clarity of the photo from 2012, I need to clean my lens or else the window; or maybe both! 

Monday several dozen cedar waxwings swooped in and gathered in the tops of the live oak trees in the greenbelt.  There is a nasty Chinaberry tree back there too; maybe they are eating those berries?  Large groups congregate around the edge of the stock tank pond for a quick drink.  They are gorgeous birds.  You can learn more about them here.

Today I glanced up into the oaks while standing at the sink (my second favorite spot to watch the owls) and saw something big fly in.  My first thought was that it was one of the owls but it was actually a red shouldered hawk.  He sat high in the canopy of the tree scanning the entire backyard looking for something tasty.  After a few minutes and finding nothing of interest he moved on.  I think our yard is a regular stop after the incident I witnessed a few weeks ago.

While putzing around the garden I startled a rabbit (it startled me too) and it went running across the yard toward the fence.  As it darted toward what it thought was safety, a hawk swooped down from the trees above and nearly caught it!  Oh! My! Gosh!  I can't imagine what it would have been like to witness that carnage!  You know, if I'm being honest, it wouldn't hurt my feelings if the rabbit moved on... Don't judge.



Have you had any surprises in the garden lately?

17 comments:

  1. How exciting to have owls nesting! I hope I get some owls around here - I need something to catch voles for me! Glad the bunny made it away safely.

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  2. I hear you regarding the rabbit. What can I say? ;-) Those photos of the screech owls (from both years) are fabulous. I didn't notice any fuzziness. Your garden sounds like a wonderful ecosystem, and everything is working in balance. Thanks for sharing the great photos!

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  3. How splendid to be able to watch nesting owls in your own backyard.

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  4. Your a regular Beatrix Potter! I think it is lovely to witness the ecosystem working...everyone has to eat, right? Do screech owls return to their nesting boxes year over year? They are so beautiful!

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    1. Karin, I've heard they do return to the same boxes but we didn't have a return of the owl couple from 2012. The box was empty for 2013 so we're so happy to see a couple move in this spring!

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  5. Is this year's female owl younger? She seems not to have fully fledged (or at least that is how I interpret her fuzzy appearance - the wood grain on the box edge seems clear enough). I haven't seen rabbits here but a hawk dive bombed a white wing dove (to it's eventual demise) on an upper deck here. The meal was just getting underway when I arrived (I'd gone upstair to see what had caused all the clatter) and startled the hawk, still clutching its meal, into flying off. Nature red in tooth and claw indeed.

    Turns out our yard isn't a good candidate for an owl box so I'll have to get my owl kicks vicariously. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Oh, Deb, why can't you put an owl box in your yard?

      I'm not sure if this female is younger, but I agree with you that she does look younger. They fledge in the spring so she may only be a year old?

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  6. Owls? In your garden? How absolutely wonderful!

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  7. You're so fortunate to see both the mom and dad owl. I only see one at a time and I'm not a good enough birder to distinguish between the two. Such great photos, as well. I loved your story about the hawk and bunny. One time while driving on a residential street near to mine, a hawk swooped down and grabbed a pigeon who was standing in the middle of the street. All we saw as we approached the formerly pigeon-inhabited spot was feathers wafting in the breeze and a hawk, winging off with his/her treasure. The world has a lot of pigeons. And bunnies.

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    1. I like your perspective, Tina. Yes, the world does have a lot of pigeons and bunnies :)

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  8. Had a blue heron swoop through our yard yesterday! Last year at this same time, we lost 4 of our fish out of our pond to a heron (I'm glad I didn't witness that carnage as it was happening, either!) So when I saw him/her fly over this year, we grabbed the net and put it over the pond. Hopefully in a few weeks when there are more leaves on the trees our pond won't be quite as easy to spot and we can remove the net. I know it's just nature doing what nature does, but I'd sure like to keep my fish! Sure would love to have an owl box!!! Amazing creatures!! Happy spring to you :-)

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  9. The birds are returning and getting ready soon to nest...the snow is receding slowly and a bit of a mid 40 day now and then.

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  10. How very precious! I have read about your owls for a couple of years now, and it really inspires me to put up some owl boxes. Such a lovely sight! Those eyes are gorgeous.

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  11. I love your owl photos! They have such marvelous faces. Lucky you to see a hawk in action. A surprise in our yard would be a bloom. We still have several inches of snow.

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  12. I was wondering about your owls just the other day so this is a fortuitous post. :o) My garden is still alive after our nasty winter, including many of my container plants that survived -2, which is our surprise. I'd love to add an owl box to my garden but I'm not sure where to put it so I need to do some research. Your owls are such beauties.

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  13. I heard somewhere that the same owl pair nests in the same spot each year, but I see that isn't so from your post, and I didn't think it was true for us either after comparing pics of owls from year to year. Enjoy this year's brood!

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  14. I've heard that too, Pam. I think Meredith of Great Stems has the same pair each year. It hasn't been our experience though.

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Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
"Pooh!" he whispered.
"Yes, Piglet?"
"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw. "I just wanted to be sure of you."
~A.A. Milne

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