Walking in a cemetery to verify names in a database, I kept seeing lots of dove feathers on the ground that I had never observed before in the Nazareth cemetery. Then I noticed the owl pellets….
I looked up into the trees for the maker of the pellets. What I spotted was the barrel shape of great horned owl’s (Bubo virginianus), but moving ever so slightly in the tree. It had an incredible camouflage against the brown and white branches.
It took me a bit to figure out the best possible angle to photograph this owl due to the branches of the tree. While I have experienced the famous great horned owl at the Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge, Muleshoe, Texas with him flying so close it caused a change in air pressure, photographing him has always remained elusive. Being able to photograph this guy was a remarkable serendipitous opportunity.
This great horned owl was just beginning to awaken. With his eyes closed, he rolled his head to the left and then took his right talon and started scratching the right side of his head. His mannerisms of his scratching reminded me of a cat as he rubbed his face and ears, especially after I saw his talons detract and then come back out before grabbing the branch again. I never learned that owls talons could detract.
That’s when our eyes met. It amazed me how his large yellow eyes were so powerfully acute in their observation of me. Then his ears perked up ever so slightly as if trying to capture any sound from me. We observed each other for around 20 minutes or so. And like I always do when I photograph any wildlife species – I thanked him and God for affording me the opportunity to pass on my experiences.
My first up-close encounter with a great horned owl is one I’ll never forget.
Photograph – © Christena Stephens Photography