Y’ Owl

2018 could have been our “Y’attler” (Year of the Rattler), as my husband and I had three separate encounters with said reptiles (click here to read about one of them). Because most humans (save herpetologists) prefer feathery to scaly animals, myself included, and because I also made the acquaintance of three new owl species, I designate 2018 my “Y’Owl,” my Year of the Owl, instead, and will show you portraits of owls, instead of rattlesnakes. You are welcome.

Of 216 global owl species, 20 typically occur in North America, and 14 in Colorado. Until a few months ago, I had only happened across six of them: Great-horned Owls, Long-eared Owls, Short-eared Owls, Barn Owls, Burrowing Owls, and Flammulated Owls. In the US, Elf Owls are the smallest, with a height of 5.75” (14.6 cm), Great Gray Owls the largest, standing 27” (68.6 cm) tall. Little or big, I find all owls equally charismatic. Their vision and hearing are superb, and their expressive eyes cast a spell over me. Attractive facial disks help channel sound waves to their ears, which are asymmetrically placed to help localize prey (the prominent feathery tufts on their heads are not ears). Their special feathers enable them to fly and approach their quarry nearly noiselessly. Mostly nocturnal, solitary, and stealthy, they have been ascribed traits that range from divine to devilish.

Great-horned Owls are, by far, the most widespread representatives in Colorado, and I am fortunate to see and photograph them regularly. The featured photo above and the second-to-last photo in the following series show adults on a nest, one on top of a tree, the other inside a tree cavity, where, a few months later, the owlet in the last picture made an appearance.

Great Horned Owl / Virginia-Uhu (Bubu virginianus)

To enlarge a photo, click on it.

In the spring of 2018, I tried in vain to find a screech owl observed by many birders in El Paso County, but, discouraged, gave up after seven unsuccessful attempts. I did not actively pursue owling throughout most of the year, but when, in late November, I learned of an Eastern Screech-Owl in a park in one of Denver’s suburbs, I braved our capital city’s traffic and, thanks to the assistance of a local resident, who knew of its daytime roost, was able to find it. It was love at first sight. Superbly camouflaged, this little owl, with feathers fluffed, was snoozing after the previous night’s hunt, while soaking up sunshine on this cold morning, not the least disturbed by a nearby noisy weed whacker, and by four admirers, clicking away with our cameras.

Eastern Screech-Owl/ Ost-Kreischeule (Megascops asio)

Two days later, a similar scenario: a cool morning, an owl enjoying creature comforts by absorbing the warming rays of the sun. Again, the kindness of a stranger. When a passerby saw my husband and me scanning every single tree along a trail in Cañon City, where a Western Screech-Owl had been reported a few days earlier, he pointed it out to us. Even though we had an idea of the location of its perch, it blended in so well with the background that we might have overlooked it. I was elated to have beheld both species of screech owls within days of one another, but experienced an encore in December, when I caught a glimpse of possibly the same owl that had eluded me in the spring, in the very same tree where it had then been seen.

Western Screech-Owl/ West-Kreischeule (Megascops kenicottii)

Last, but not least – temporally speaking, it actually rang in the trio of novel encounters of the owlish kind – was an unplanned, unforeseen meeting with a Northern Pygmy Owl at the end of September during a hike at one of our local parks. Mobbed by a jay, it alighted for a brief moment not far from the trail, and afforded a brief side view only, before it disappeared back into the impenetrable forest whence it had emerged.

Northern Pygmy-Owl/ Gnomenkauz (Glaucidium gnoma)

 

Nine Colorado owls down, at least five to go. Maybe in 2019, maybe later, maybe never. Last year’s hits and misses reminded me that we can’t always get what we want (as the Rolling Stones figured out long ago), or when we want it, but that each year holds unexpected surprises. My wish for 2019: May the new year reveal new treasures to all of us.

 

PS: With thanks to my husband, who coined both “Y’attler” and “Y’Owl.”

62 thoughts on “Y’ Owl

  1. My grandmother loved owls. She collected them in every possible way collectible. This put me off owls for a long time. The only owl I like was Archimedis in Die Hexe und der Zauberer. During the last years I fall for them. They are so beautiful. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In 2018, a local community baseball field was closed temporarily during nesting season because a pair of eagles had build a nest on a light stand. The eagles had been driven from their former nest — by a great horned owl.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like your “You are welcome” in response to the unstated “Thank you.”

    When I first saw the title “Y’Owl” I thought it was a play on “Y’All,” the Great Southern Y’All (Secundapersona australis) that can be heard from Texas through Virginia, though not usually from up in trees. Of course there’s no reason it’d be coming from Colorado, so I continued reading and saw that it’s a contraction for Year of the Owl. Happy nine-down-and-five-to-go to you.

    Then I got curious about the English word “owler.” Aside from its modern use among birders, it appears in some old dictionaries with the definition ‘one who owls; especially, one who conveys contraband goods.’ I guess the idea was that a smuggler had to be as quiet as an owl. Seeing “Eule” in your German captions, I wonder if the great Swiss mathematician Euler’s family name also meant ‘owler.’

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am glad you didn’t stop at the title, but kept on reading, Steve.
      It is always so interesting to follow your mind’s peregrinations. Thank you for the intriguing questions you raise. I had not really heard of an owler, only of owling. We might need to delve into Euler’s biography to learn if his ancestors ever pursued owling.
      Best wishes for the new year!

      Like

  4. Thanks for sharing your treasures, Tanja!
    I love owls. Owls are absolutely fascinating,
    Their orientation in darkness and silence when flying over a field.
    I’ve met a few owls in my life. A Tawny Owl and Pygmy Owl. The last one only once 🙂
    Wish you lots of happy discoveries in 2019 ❤
    Hanna

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Was für schöne Eulenfotos, liebe Tanja.
    Ich bin ganz fasziniert von ihnen, und es ist auf den Bildern wunderbar zu sehen, wie gut ihr Gefieder sich als Baumrinde tarnt.
    Wie groß bzw. klein ist denn der putzige Gnomemkauz?
    Ich hatte einmal auf einem Mittelalter-Markt bei einem Falkner die Gelegenheit unter fachkundiger Anleitung einen Uhu zu streicheln. Das war ein sehr tiefGREIFendes Erlebnis für mich.
    Beflügelte Grüße von Ulrike

    Liked by 2 people

    • Es freut mich, daß Dir die Eulenphotos gefallen, liebe Ulrike. Ich finde es schwer, die Größe in freier Natur abzuschätzen, aber laut Vogelführer, ist der Kauz 7 inches groß, d.h. etwa 17.8 cm, und zwar von der Schnabel- bis zur Schwanzspitze.
      Ich beneide Dich um Deine tiefGREIFende Berührung. Die flauschigen Federn dieser Vögel üben eine magische Anziehungskraft aus, doch glücklicherweise sind sie normalerweise außer Reichweite, sonst wäre ich vielleicht versucht…
      Federleichte Grüße zurück an Dich.
      Tanja 🦉

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Tanja, you have a wonderful way of describing owls. I love your quest to find and photograph them in their natural habitats. I love our owls here but have never gotten up close shots like you have. These are amazing photos. Thanks for sharing with us!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am sorry to hear that you are not a fan, Cornell, but I appreciate you taking the time to comment anyhow. I think I have heard little owls in Germany before, but that was a long time ago. I will try to find one during my next visit.
      Best,
      Tanja

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Liebe Tanja, was für prächtige Fotos von diesen wunderschönen Eulen! Zauberhaft! Und wie gut sie getarnt sind. Niedlich, wie sie sich aufwärmen und dabei die Augen zukneifen. Ich würde sagen, daß war schon ein sehr glückliches Jahr 🙂 Wer weiß, was 2019 alles Schönes bringen wird! Viel Glück dabei und ich freue mich auf weitere tolle Geschichten und schöne Fotos bei dir bzw. von dir! Liebe Grüße, Almuth

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Donna. Whenever I am fortunate enough to see one, I marvel at how well they blend into their surroundings. With many of these sightings, be they owls or other birds, I have benefitted from the help of other birders, for which I am very thankful.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Wonderful post! I was happy to read you found a Pygmy. He was the highlight of our birding year to be sure, but I was bummed that my CO friends didn’t get to see their own resident. You have an impressive owl list; I’ve only five on my life list.

    Our resident barred owl (which I’ve not seen since December) likes to begin his nightly hunt from a tree branch just outside our front door. If I’m quiet enough, I can approach to within 20 feet in the dark and witness his silent retreat through the trees. One day he flew right over my shoulder. Exhilarating!! I just love the owls; they have a key to my heart.

    Of course, I would have loved a Y’attler post as well. My year ended with a funny rattlesnake story. They definitely elicit an instinctive response to find and KILL what’s making that sound! (Though my instinct is to find and catch.)

    Here’s to more owls in 2019, and fewer rattlers. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was definitely thrilled to end the year with three more owl sightings, Shannon, after my disappointment earlier in the year.
      How thrilling that you have an owl in your yard. I would love to be able to study one more closely, to really get to know it. Most of these encounters are far too short-lived.
      Maybe you will tell your funny rattlesnake story on your blog?
      Yes, here is to owls and any other birds we will get to meet this year. Happy owling/birding in 2019.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m so glad! My other favorite Jane Yolen book is “Letting Swift River Go” which tells the story of the flooding of the river and several towns back in 30s to make the Massachusetts ‘ Quabbin Reservoir, one of the largest unfiltered water supplies in the U.S. Yolen tells the heartbreaking story of townspeople being forced to leave their land and see their towns disappear under water, but her message is life affirming for all ages. I lived near the Quabbin for many years (my teaching career was with the Quabbin School District) so it is particularly meaningful to me. Thought you might like it, as I know you are involved in environmental issues.🐶, Julie

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, Julie. Our library has many of her title (she is VERY prolific), but that particular one does not appear to be one of them. I will keep an eye out. Flooding towns and other landmarks has definitely been controversial in the West as well. Just think of all the canyons along the Colorado River that were dammed.

        Liked by 1 person

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