Just last week I photographed a great horned owl at the Nazareth cemetery and I briefly mentioned the ever present, but mysterious great horned owl (Bubo virginianus) at the Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) near Muleshoe, Texas. Earlier this week this owl became elusive no more to my camera.
My friend, Ginny and I have known about this great horned owl for years at the Muleshoe NWR. Originally, some people said it was a barn owl. Ha! If you’ve seen a barn owl, you know the two species are completely distinctive from one another in shape and coloration. Almost every time I have been to the refuge in these last two years after co-founding the Friends of the Muleshoe and Grulla National Wildlife Refuges, I always drive by or hike to the area of his roosting site inside a dead cottonwood tree just to see if I can spot this owl.
I’ve only seen it fly once in 2014 when I was trying to photograph a painted bunting at the refuge. He began flying so close he changed the air pressure each time he flew by me. Feeling an air pressure change is amazing due to one a single bird.
It was hard spotting him sitting in the hallowed out cottonwood tree. He never wavered from his post while I was photographing him. I’m thankful he sat quietly observing the landscape turning his head from left to right ever so slightly in a constant motion, as if he were going to miss something. His ear tufts twitched in the gentle breeze with each turn of his head. Great horned owls are distinctive due to their ear tufts and barrel shaped bodies. Their feather coloration is camouflage at its best up against a dead tree or brown branches with few green leaves attached to them.
Two great horned owls in two weeks is a remarkable experience. I cannot wait to see what I photograph next.
Photographs – © Christena Stephens Photography
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