Owls Calling In Each Other and Some Digiscoping

As mentioned in the previous post, it's a little chilly right now. But I decided to try some digiscoping at Mr. Neil's bird feeders. Number one, being right outside the house, I could dash in and have some pumpkin spice tea when the layers would begin to fail me (my layering system works great when I'm walking, but it's hard to stay warm when standing in one spot taking photos). Plus, the cold just wreaks havoc on my batteries for my camera. I have discovered that using those Hot Hand hand warmers does help keep them going a little bit longer than just keeping them in a pants pocket.

The berries that were in the blue jay photo are from a bittersweet vine that we planted in the yard. I just love bittersweet, I think it's one of the pretties fall vines out there, so I snipped some off and set it on top of the stump with the snow and tossed some black oil sunflower seed and mixed nuts in front of it so see what type of bird photos I could get.

It's interesting that you hear some people complain about all the manipulation of images with Photoshop, but images can be manipulated just as easily with some well placed foliage and food bribery. I know some who go to great lengths to hide the bird seed used to bring in birds for photos, but I'm not that picky.

It was interesting that this female red-bellied woodpecker had no problem coming down to the stump for the nuts. This species is usually pretty cagey in Mr. Neil's yard. If they do come in, they usually stick to the suet feeder or peanut feeder. But this female decided to risk the spotting scope and come down for some nuts.

Round about 4pm, it started getting darker and the bird activity began to slow down. It was mostly juncos and a couple of cardinals coming in towards the end. I normally would have cropped out the half red-breasted nuthatch on the right, but check out the leg--there's a band, no doubt this is one of the nuthatches we banded this fall. Whoot.

As it was getting darker, something caught the attention of both me and the junco (notice that it looks a bit more alert)--we heard a great horned owl hooting. There has been some hooting on and off in the last few weeks, but they sounded very close. First it stared with one, and then a second, higher pitched hoot came in--male and female. They were hooting back and forth, well it is December, that is prime owl flirting time, but as they were hooting, I noticed a very faint hooting--another great horned was hooting back!

It was almost 4:30pm at this point and that's when the sun sets this time of year. I took a photo and see those tall pines in the back ground? That's where the owls were hooting. After I took this photo, I noticed some flapping and then saw a bird land on top of the pines. I thought I would test my Swarovski's light gathering abilities and see if I could see anything:

There was an owl, perched right at the top of a branch! In the scope, you could make out the colors, but my little digital camera could only just about make out the great horned owl's silhouette.

Here is the male owl in mid-hoot. I love how they pop their tails up like they are some kind of giant wren. Check out its puffed out throat too! The distant owl kept hooting back to the pair closest to me. This is great, I didn't even have to use the iPod, the birds were calling themselves out! Not long after I took this photo, the female flew up to join him:

Here is the male on the left and the female on the right. You can see the size difference and when they were hooting, you could totally tell that the owl on the right was much higher in pitch than the one on the left. I tried to get a video which will be below. You really can't hear the hooting, they were too far for my sad little mic to pick up. But, some fun things that I did catch on the video: At 34 seconds, the female on the right will hoot (you'll see her cock up her tail) and then right after that, watch the male on the left--he's going to cough up a pellet and you should see it fall at about 51 seconds, then watch the female again because she will poop at 1:01. The who thing lasts about a minute and twenty seconds. I ran in and grabbed Mr. Neil's video camera to see if it would be strong enough to pick out the hooting sounds and if you click here and crank your volume as loud as possible, you can hear the male and female hoot (head phones might work best. Anyway, here is the video of the hootin' nanny:

Ah, one of my favorite moments in life. Listening to owls calling in the dark while standing in snow.