Archive for April, 2011

Great Horned Owl Chick Leaves Nest

Great Horned Owl - One day after leaving the nest

Taking another trip back to a friend’s house to visit the owls was exciting.  I was met at the truck when I arrived and told the owls left the nest the day before.  I had already picked one out in a tree at the edge of the field with my binoculars.

I finished putting the camera together, got out the tripod and slowly approached the owl.  It did not move.  It is what the call a brancher, so it had not done much flying.  I took a few pictures from different angles then left the bird so as not to disturb it much.

If you look closely, this is an owl you don’t want to tangle with.  It may be young, but look at the talons.  You can see why it, like the eagle, is at the top of the food chain.

It will spend more time in the area.  It will really on its parents for food for the next few months as it learns to hunt.  Hopefully this will allow me a couple more opportunities to photograph this fascinating bird.

Till next time, I hope you enjoy the image of the Great Horned Owl Chick…

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Bald Eagle Nest

American Bald Eagle - Macon County, Illinois

 

     I have always been fascinated with bald eagles.  I have watched eagles at locks and dams, ferry crossings, sitting at a hole in the ice waiting for a duck to catch food only to have the eagle steal it.  I have seen them following the snow geese migration, which is another story for later.  I have seen nests in various places, also.  I have had the opportunity to photograph and eagles nest right here in Macon County, Illinois.  Eagles are making a comeback, and it is being shown by how they are becoming year-long residents farther south than in the previous several decades.

Most bald eagles nest north of Illinois.  They nest in the northern states and Canada.  Very large amounts of eagles live in Alaska.

The eagles main food is fish.  They will eat other things too.  They like squirrels, rabbits, small birds and even larger birds like geese.  During the warmer months most eagles are living in the northern latitudes where fish supplies are plentiful and easy to access.  As winter sets in snow covers the ground, and ice covers their hunting waters.  So survival mode sets in and they head south.  To their advantage so do other birds.  This is a great opportunity for the eagle.  Snow geese are a feast for them.  As the snow geese head south in large numbers the eagles follow.

As said before they are opportunistic feeders and kind of lazy.  They sit in a tree for long periods of time and wait.  Eagles look for the tired, weak and sick birds.  Why chase a goose that can fly away when you may have hundreds of thousands of birds to choose from.  There must be some easy pickens in there.  Eagles will migrate with and behind the geese migration having healthy meals in the process.

Heading south they look for places to live for the winter.  They are looking for ice-free lakes and rivers.  Now ice may form on the lakes they pick, but there will be someplace there they can feed.  The Illinois River and Mississippi Rivers have been great places for find winter eagles in the past, and still are.  But, we are now finding them on lakes farther away from these great rivers.  This is a good thing, showing the eagle populations is increasing and is healthy.

In the past these eagles would migrate north again in the spring to their nesting sites to raise their young.  They would start the process over in fall again.

Promising news is that some  eagles are nesting (staying year round) farther south, including right here in Macon County and surrounding counties.  We have been seeing them the last several years in the winter months, but we know some have become year-long residents the last couple years.  This is exciting.  Soon there will be an increase in the nests, and bald eagles will be something we will see on a regular basis.

I have talked with many people who have seen the eagles flying around the county.  They have been seen in all corners of the county and also right in the city of Decatur.  We have had vultures for years, and these can be mixed up with eagles.  But if you see something that looks like it could be an eagle get out some binoculars and take a closer look.  Look for the white head and white tail.  If you see those, you have an eagle.

The white head and tail only help in identifying mature eagles.  Immature bald eagles do not have the white head or tail which confuses some people.  Eagles do not mature untill five years of age.  This is when they get their distinctive identifying marks, and when they start reproducing.

It has been great to see these majestic birds making a comeback.  Soon it will be common place to see them soaring on a regular basis.  My hope is that you too will get to enjoy this fantastic bird.

Great Horned Owl To Be Rescued And Put Back Into Nest

Great Horned Owl Chick

 Last week Macon County Conservation District had a dinner for all their volunteers.  We had a great dinner with many interesting people.  After all the eating we had a great  show.  The Illinois Raptor Center (IRC) had a live presentation with a Great Horned Owl.  It was very interesting since I have been photographing owls lately.  In the presentation a rescue of a Great Horned Owl (GHO) was shown.  Two fisherman found two chicks and took them to IRC.  It was decieded that they would be taken back and put into the nest to contine to be wild birds.

Great Place to Sit and Enjoy Nature

The location of the nest was revealed to me.  I went to the area to scout it out and came across this owlett sitting in a hole in a tree.  And yes next to this tree was the tree with the homemade nest that the other two owls were sitting in.  Apparently the third owl also fell out of the tree.  I took a few pictures and moved on.  I then called IRC to inform them of the fallen chick.  They were able to go back out and rescue this one also.  That is a great outcome.  These chicks were taken from their home, but returned to live a normal life in the wild.