A couple of months ago in the evening we would hear the hooting of an owl, so we decided to go on a little walk toward the sound and low and behold we found her…
It seemed each evening she would end up in the same tree…
Then we noticed an old nest a couple of trees down. A couple of weeks ago I decided to look for her again and found her IN the nest and last week see what I spotted…
A fuzzy, wuzzy little owlet!!
Great Horned Owls are fierce predators that can take large prey, including raptors such as Ospreys, Peregrine Falcons, Prairie Falcons, and other owls. They also eat much smaller items such as rodents, frogs, and scorpions.
When clenched, a Great Horned Owl’s strong talons require a force of 28 pounds to open. The owls use this deadly grip to sever the spine of large prey.
If you hear an agitated group of cawing American Crows, they may be mobbing a Great Horned Owl. Crows may gather from near and far and harass the owl for hours. The crows have good reason, because the Great Horned Owl is their most dangerous predator.
Even though the female Great Horned Owl is larger than her mate, the male has a larger voice box and a deeper voice. Pairs often call together, with audible differences in pitch.
Great Horned Owls are covered in extremely soft feathers that insulate them against the cold winter weather and help them fly very quietly in pursuit of prey. Their short, wide wings allow them to maneuver among the trees of the forest.
Great Horned Owls have large eyes, pupils that open widely in the dark, and retinas containing many rod cells for excellent night vision. Their eyes don’t move in their sockets, but they can swivel their heads more than 180 degrees to look in any direction. They also have sensitive hearing, thanks in part to facial disc feathers that direct sound waves to their ears.
The oldest Great Horned Owl on record was at least 28 years old when it was found in Ohio in 2005.
Sunday morning my husband and myself, along with some friends arose at 4:30 am to be at a Sharp-tailed Grouse lek an hour before sunrise…
Arriving an hour before sunrise with stars still in the sky and a start to a beautiful day…
People wishing to view sharpies dancing must arrive at the lek an hour before sunrise in order not to disturb the grouse.
Beautiful sunrise on the lek…
The mating routine of Sharp-tailed Grouse involves males displaying communally at a traditional site (one used year after year). This site is known as a “lek.” Males compete for mates by performing a ritualized dance in conjunction with calling (often a booming sound) and inflating purplish air sacs along their necks. Females approach the edge of the lek, observe and eventually select a dance participant to mate with.
Male grouse hold territories on the lek with the dominant male usually claiming the most central position. The central male also normally mates with the most females. In general, a male’s success at attracting females is highly correlated with his position on the lek. This leads to relatively few males siring most of the young.
The Mountain Bluebirds have arrived and with it so has spring! On Sunday after church the kids along with their father built some bluebird boxes to put up around the farm. Hopefully they will help entice more bluebirds to nest and hang around for the summer…
We spotted a few female (what we believe to be ) Barrow’s Goldeneye…
They ended up getting a bit too close together and duck decided she didn’t want the other around…
And chased the other one away!
The Barrow’s Goldeneye is rather long-lived for a duck, with one individual reaching 18 years of age. Most females do not breed until they are three years old.
Like the Common Goldeneye, the Barrow’s Goldeneye is not too particular about holding on to its own offspring. A female may lay eggs in the nest of another goldeneye or other species of cavity-nesting duck. Once the ducklings come out of the nest, the broods of different females often come together and are taken care of by a single female. The young ducklings are highly independent, feeding on their own, and require little parental care.
For a species with such widely separated populations, it is perhaps surprising that the Barrow’s Goldeneye shows little variation from place to place. Those breeding in North America are essentially identical on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Female Barrow’s Goldeneyes breeding in Iceland do not get as extensively yellow bills as the North American birds, but have only a yellow or orangish band on the outer third of the otherwise dusky bill.
On March 30, we were able to head over to Choteau, MT and watch the annual migration of the Snow geese. The weekends before it sounded like was their peak time but we were still able to watch some take off in the morning to go visit neighboring fields in search of grain. During it’s peak it sounds like they are well over 30,000 geese meeting at these ponds, on their way to breeding grounds.
There was an AMAZING sunrise that morning. The sky started to change color 45 minutes prior to the official sunrise time, the kids ohhed and ahhed the whole way to Freezeout Lake. At it’s peak it was splendid!!
Add some Snow geese to the sky…
My husband shot this of myself, a few of the littles and my oldest daughter, all of whom were taking pictures!
Snow Goose hunting in the eastern United States was stopped in 1916 because of low population levels. Hunting was allowed again in 1975 after populations had recovered. Since then, their populations have continued to grow, to the point that some areas of tundra nesting habitat are starting to suffer.
The dark color of the blue morph Snow Goose is controlled by a single gene, with dark being partially dominant over white. If a pure dark goose mates with a white goose, the offspring will all be dark (possibly with white bellies). If two white geese mate, they have only white offspring. If two dark geese mate, they will have mostly dark offspring, but might have a few white ones too.
Snow Geese chicks are well developed when they hatch, with open eyes and down-covered bodies that already show whether the adult will have white or dark plumage. Within a few days they are able to maintain a constant body temperature on their own. They grow very quickly, with the males outpacing the females.
The creamy white eggs of Snow Geese stain easily. People can sometimes tell what order the eggs were laid in, just by the color of the shells (the dirtiest shells belong to the oldest eggs).
In wintering and migrating flocks that are feeding, lookouts keep an eye out for eagles and other predators. Upon sighting a threat they call out to the rest of the flock, which may take flight.
Snow Geese make epic journeys by air, but they are impressive on foot, too. Within the first three weeks of hatching, goslings may walk up to 50 miles with their parents from the nest to a more suitable brood-rearing area. Molting Snow Geese can outrun many predators.
Females forage up to 18 hours a day once they arrive at breeding grounds, but eat little once they begin incubating the eggs.
Food passes through the Snow Goose’s digestive tract in only an hour or two, generating 6 to 15 droppings per hour. The defecation rate is highest when a goose is grubbing for rhizomes, because such food is very high in fiber and the goose inevitably swallows mud.
The oldest Snow Goose on record, shot in Texas in 1999, was 27 and a half.