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A New Neighbor

There's a Great Horned Owl nest near our house.  You have to walk a short distance to see it -- maybe half a mile.  But then you look into an expanse of forest, find the great mass of branches and such in the fork of a large, straight oak tree, and there's the female, her head visible above the edge of the nest, her tufts -- the so-called horns -- framed against the sky.  Owls nest earlier than most birds.  Great Horneds nest earlier than most owls.  She's probably already incubating eggs.  She might even be caring for young.

For those of you who don't know, Great Horned Owls are probably the most formidable avian hunters in North America.  They've been known to take possum, raccoon, skunk, rabbits, domestic cats, other species of owl, Red-tailed Hawks (which aren't exactly wimpy birds), even Great Blue Herons.  If you're ever at a natural history museum, check out the Great Horned specimens.  Look at the size of the birds, particularly the females (among birds of prey, the females are almost always the larger of the pair).  Then look at the size of their talons.  They look like they belong on a bobcat....

And this pair is nesting around the corner.  Very cool.

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( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
kmarkhoover
Feb. 19th, 2009 02:49 am (UTC)
wow, that is cool
davidbcoe
Feb. 19th, 2009 02:53 am (UTC)
I admit it: I'm a bird-geek. I love stuff like this. Particularly hawks and owls. Can't get enough of 'em.
emmycee
Feb. 19th, 2009 02:59 am (UTC)
We have those out here. I got lucky enough to see a pair of them on a saguaro once, both full size and happy to stand around while I oogled and fumbled for a camera. They are gorgeous, and very formidable.

I also got to watch a family of Harris hawks raise young in a tree out front of my place. Watching the chicks fledge was amazing.
davidbcoe
Feb. 19th, 2009 03:30 am (UTC)
Harris's Hawks may be my favorite North American raptor. Just gorgeous, particular when framed against a deep blue Tucson sky. Thanks for the comment.
arhyalon
Feb. 19th, 2009 03:02 am (UTC)
They have a wonderful pair of them at Zoo America:

http://arhyalon.smugmug.com/gallery/7257349_ABkcw#466450242_LFme2
davidbcoe
Feb. 19th, 2009 03:32 am (UTC)
Thanks for the pic link, Jagi!
arhyalon
Feb. 19th, 2009 01:46 pm (UTC)
That's actually my photo from our recent visit to the zoo. If you like it feel free to copy it or whatever.
monissaw
Feb. 19th, 2009 04:08 am (UTC)

Oh, that reminds me (puts on geeky fangirl hat) of when I was reading your LonTobyn series. A friend bought them for me at a worldcon (San Jose, so 2002?). I thought they'd be good to read on the long haul home over the Atlantic, but I, um, sort of started reading them a bit earlier and, well, I did have 6 pages left by the time I got to LA airport (because I'd put the book down to stare at the city as the plane crossed it).

Anyway, while I was in the middle of reading them, the friend I was staying with took me to a animal rehabilitation/refuge place north of Dallas where they were having a raptor open day -- displays with live eagles & hawks & vultures & owls, and a little kestrel. It certainly a different dimension to reading the books :)
davidbcoe
Feb. 19th, 2009 04:33 am (UTC)
Thanks for the story, Monissa. Glad you cruised through the book so fast. Spend just a little time around hawks and owls and you can't help but appreciate their beauty, their grace, their compelling ferocity.
princessalethea
Feb. 19th, 2009 04:29 am (UTC)
Wow! How very wonderful!

There used to be an owl on my street...he and I would be the only ones up at 2am. I really miss that guy.
davidbcoe
Feb. 19th, 2009 02:52 pm (UTC)
When we still had our dog, I'd walk him late at night, usually long after the rest of the neighborhood had gone to bed. Quite often there were Barred Owls calling at that hour -- Barred Owls are the "hoot" owls most common in the South; unmistakable call.
(Deleted comment)
davidbcoe
Feb. 19th, 2009 02:53 pm (UTC)
Very nice. Nancy and I love Great Blues. She thinks they look like pterodactyls in flight -- there's something other-worldly about them.

Edited at 2009-02-19 02:55 pm (UTC)
crazywritergirl
Feb. 19th, 2009 01:29 pm (UTC)
A Great Horned Owl!!! Okay, serious case of envy here. Owls bring good luck, at least in the little world I live in. I know some cultures don't consider them such, but I do. I love nothing more than listening to them talking back and forth. You're a lucky guy, you know?

Suppose I shouldn't complain. I've got some sort of songbird in the wreath on my front door. Since I work in the front part of the house during the day, I get serenaded. Kinda nifty.
davidbcoe
Feb. 19th, 2009 02:58 pm (UTC)
I've actually always considered the Great Horned Owl my totem. I know that probably sounds stupid, but I've had encounters with them at key times in my life, and they've become a sort of good luck charm for me, too.
scbutler
Feb. 19th, 2009 02:01 pm (UTC)
And to think I was just talking with Melinda Snodgrass this morning about the Great-horned Owl in her backyard.
davidbcoe
Feb. 19th, 2009 02:59 pm (UTC)
In her backyard! That's totally cool. Now I'm envious....
scbutler
Feb. 19th, 2009 03:45 pm (UTC)
She has a big backyard. The joys of living in the hills outside Santa Fe.
markwise
Feb. 19th, 2009 02:25 pm (UTC)
That sounds so cool, David! I love owls, even though they are bad omens in folklore.

Maybe you can get a picture for us?

Did you see on the news that a Great Snowy Owl was seen nesting around Springhill,TN? They said it was the first time one has been seen in TN in around 100 years or something... ? It was reported that birdwatchers from all around the area were making a trip there for a look.
davidbcoe
Feb. 19th, 2009 03:02 pm (UTC)
This bird is probably too far away for a picture, and believe me when I tell you that I don't to get too close to Mama when she's on the nest. I wasn't kidding about those talons....

I have heard about the Snowy Owl, and I've considered going to look for it. A friend of mine went, but didn't see it. Another of my favorite birds.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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