Archive for the 'Nests' Category

Great Horned Owl Chicks

With Spring working its way in, baby birds and animals will start making themselves known.  Sometimes you are lucky to find photo opportunities on your own and other times people will share those great places with you.  A co-worker and birder told me he had a nest of owls in his neighborhood.  He said it was a couple of houses down from where he lived.  He and his girlfriend had been enjoying them for a few weeks and had enjoyed hearing the parents all winter.

Not having opportunities often to photograph owl chicks, I headed out.  It is a 25 minute drive to the nest site from my house.  People ask, why would you drive 25 minutes to see a bird’s nest?  Because when the opportunity presents itself, it can be a real hoot…  I know, I could have chosen my words better there.

150327_070_n1_p_wpIt was fun watching the owls.  One of the parents was watching me too.  It was a nice evening and I was even able to talk with one of the neighbors who was excited to have them nesting nearby.

Hopefully I will have more of these kids as they grow up and leave the nest.

New Year for Heron Rookery

Heron Rookery View

Heron Rookery View

Every Spring I look forward to getting out to see nature coming to life.  There are several Heron Rookeries that I visit.  This rookery is a large on with over 160 nests.  It has maintained a constant size for the last few years.  Even though the rookery is a beautiful site, imagine the mess that over 300 birds can make.  Imagine when the chicks come along.  I am looking forward to the noise the chicks make when they are active.  Visit this page at “All about Birds”   and listen to the sound clip called “Begging Young at Nest”.  Now imagine over 300 of them squawking at the same time.  It is a sound you never forget.

Great Blue Herons Pairing Up at Nests

Great Blue Herons Pairing Up at Nests

Here is closer view of the herons at the nests.  They are paring up and soon will start mating.

Getting out there now allows the nests to be counted, as the leaves make it impossible to view all the nests.  Soon leaves will fill in the holes you see and only a few nests will be visible to the eyes.  The young will be born, and the parents will have their “Beaks” full taking care of the little ones.

Great Blue Heron Sitting in Tree

Great Blue Heron Sitting in Tree

For now it is the adults that I share in my blog.  Soon I will return, and a new generation will reveal itself.  I hope you come back to see more of my adventures with camera.

Neighbor’s Robbin Nest

Robin Sitting on Nest in Birch Tree

After mowing the lawn the other day, I noticed a nest in one of my neighbor’s trees.  Sitting in it was a Robin.  Yesterday I took a few minutes to photograph it.  I hope to get a few more before the eggs hatch, but I avoid putting pressure on nesting birds till the eggs hatch.  I would not want to chase them off and loose the birds. So, for now I will limit my time at the nest.  After they hatch I can spend a little more time with them.  So hopefully there will be more to follow soon.

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 – Future Family in a Tree

Looking at You

The other day some friends told me about a Great Horned Owl in their yard.  So at the first chance I stopped by to see this big bird.  Here are a couple of images I captured and some information on the Great Horned Owl.

These birds are the biggest owl in North America reaching 25 inches tall.  They can have a wing span of 60 inches.  Combine this with their weight of up to 61 ounces, this is a big bird.  It is among the top of the food chain.  They hunt mainly at night and are stealthy when it comes to flight.  Their feathers allow to them be almost soundless when in flight.

In our area they start breeding in December and lay eggs in February.  They do not build their own nests but use cavities in trees or buildings.  They will use an old hawks nest or even a great blue heron nest.  They can be seen nesting in an active heron rookery.

Great Horned Owl nesting in tree cavity

 They will lay 1-3 eggs and it will take 28-35 days for them to hatch.  After 5-6 weeks they will start branching and at 10 weeks they will fly.  They will rely on their parents for 4-5 months after that.

These birds will hunt from the air or ground, but mostly from sitting on a perch.  They will eat about anything that moves.  Insects, mice, domestic cats, ducks, geese, hawks and herons are food for this owl.  Even skunks are tasty for the Great Horned Owl.  They have power talons that can crush the bones of prey.

Habitats prefered are old growth forests with conifer trees.  They can be seen roosting next to the main trunk of a tree allowing them to blend well during the day.  They also like having open fields in the area to hunt small mammals.

Great Horned eat small prey whole and tear larger catches to eat.  Eating this way causes them to cast pellets.  The pellets they spit out contain the fur, feathers and bones of their dinner.  These can be seen at the base of their nesting site or where they roost.

Since these owls prey on other birds, crows and others; these birds will harass Great Horns during the daytime.  They will find their roost and pick at the owl trying to cause it to leave the area.  If you hear many birds squawking, this might the activity you might witness.

Great Horns normally do not migrate, but keep on territory year round.  Normally solitary, a mating pair will roost next to each other prior to mating season.  After the female lays the eggs, the male can be found roosting near by.  If you find a pair and their nest, you might be able to see them and their young for a couple of years in the same nest.

It is quite exciting to see these birds.  I consider it a privilege to photograph these birds.

Thanks to some friends I will return for more pictures of the family in the tree…