Saturday, December 31, 2011

Red Car Canyon: Great Horned Owl, Rare Daylight Sighting

Photo: Jonathan Vandiveer, December 31, 2011, 10:12 AM.  What appears to be a Great Horned Owl was sleeping in a pine tree in Red Car Canyon.  Note how well camouflaged its chest feathers are, reflecting the pattern of the pine needles.  (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Just minutes after the Kestrel encounter, I walked into the wooded canyon on the Red Car Property.  It was eerily quiet; no birds singing at all.  I immediately looked around for a hawk, since the birds go quiet when there's a hawk nearby.  In a tree favored by the Cooper's Hawks, the owl was sleeping.  I called Red Car Property neighbor Jonathan Vandiveer, who got the great shot above. 

Vandiveer had been hearing owls calling at night lately, but he thought his neighbor had been joking with him, because the whoo-hoo-whoo sounded like a human, not an owl.  He was pleased to finally get to see the owl in person.  Thanks for the awesome photo!
Photo: Diane Edwardson, December 31, 10:12 AM.  The owl was trying to sleep while neighbors with barking, playing dogs came through the canyon.  None of us had seen one in mid-morning before.  One neighbor said she hears them in the pine trees on Bancroft near Earl this time of year and in the summer.

One neighbor present said he regularly sees them in the canyon, at dusk and after dark.  He's often seen owls and hawks following dogs on the Red Car Property.  I pointed out that his dog likes to chase squirrels, so the prey would be distracted by the dog and the owl would take advantage of the opportunity to catch the squirrel.  Smart adaptation indeed.  
Photo: Diane Edwardson, December 31, 2011, 10:35 AM.  Later, when I returned through the canyon, the owl was still sleeping in the pine tree.  It's easier to see large or unique birds in the canyon right now, because so many trees went down in the December 1, 2011 windstorm.  There's a lot more daylight than there was a month ago.

Learn more about Great Horned Owls: Cornell Lab of Ornithology