Lori Carey Photography

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My Tyto Alba babies

Phew! I have been trying to take a decent shot of those guys for over a week and that is the best I have been able to do. They hide in the shade underneath a palm frond during the heat of the day, and I don't want to flash a strobe into those little sleeping baby owl eyes...Aren't they just the cutest? Kind of remind of me furbies, minus the long ears.

Yes, the pair of barn owls who have been hanging out in my palm trees every night decided to have their family in one of my trees this year. I noticed a change in the adults' behavior a little over two weeks ago, and then heard a strange new noise that I couldn't identify. When I noticed that Mom and Dad were spending a lot of time in one tree in the front of the house I kept an eye on it, and sure enough one evening I noticed there were three owls in the tree. The babies are quite large by the time they show their cute little faces, I'd guess about 14 inches tall. I didn't realize at first that it was a baby until I realized that two of the owls were bringing food to the the owl in the tree all night long. And what a ruckus! Barn owls don't hoot - they scream, screech, hiss and croak. (If you've never heard them, a site with some really good sound files can be found here. The first time I heard a barn owl I thought a neighbor was being mugged!) As soon as the sun starts to set the baby starts calling for its parents. They do a few low fly-bys and call out to the baby, who screams back at them. When one of the parents lands in the tree the noise really starts.

The baby fledged and would sit in its favorite tree in the back of the house at night while its parents brought food. The noise made it pretty hard to sleep some nights, but I had a lot of fun watching this for a little over a week. One afternoon I looked up into the tree in the front of the house where the baby sleeps during the day and saw that there were two owls. Barn owls lay their eggs two days apart. I have to guess that either some didn't hatch, or the delay was more than two days in this case. I thought the noise was bad enough with one baby! The older baby stopped moving to the tree in the back at feeding time since his younger sibling couldn't fly yet. Then, two days later, the third one showed his adorable little face. You should hear the nights at my place now!

The sources I've consulted state varying lengths of time before they'll all leave the nest, but the eldest has been gone a few days now. No more chances to catch all three sleeping together. The other two are definitely flying - I watched the three of them take a short flight to a nearby tree the other evening. Based on the timing of the first one I expect the second to leave in about a week, and the last one shortly after that.

None of my neighbors knew what was going on and somehow a rumor was started that 'someone' was feeding the owls and creating all of the noise and commotion at night. Yes, that is exactly what my one neighbor told me! So one afternoon while I was out checking on them I had everyone craning their necks to peek up into the tree and I explained what was taking place. Makes it a little easier for everyone to handle the sleep disturbances.

Pretty cool to have all of that going on right in my own yard.

So why have I been so lax with my blogging? After the jump...

My parents started on their lifelong dream of driving across the country back in June. I knew they were headed out this way but we didn't know when they would be here (good for them, I'm so jealous). They had never been west of the Mississippi, and when you see the West for the first time it takes your breath away. Photos don't do it justice. There is so much to see out here and the land is vast. On July 3rd I received a phone call from my parents that they had been in Arizona for almost a week and were ready to come visit me. Of course I told them to head on over; we hadn't seen each other in a few years. They were right in Flagstaff, a day's drive away.

When they were planning their trip last year I tried to tell them to leave in May...boy they hated driving through the deserts in July! Neither one is in good health and both have trouble walking. When they got here they practically collapsed. To make a long story short, what they thought would be a few days ended up being a bit longer due to problems with my Dad's prescriptions, a minor car problem, the need to change some of their travel plans due to the wildfires up north and I think a bit of road weariness. We did fit in some easier sightseeing; my Mom was set on seeing La Brea Tar Pits and I'd never been so we did that one day. Of course we had to visit Mission SJC another day. My Dad is really getting into photography (woohoo!) and loves nature/wildlife/birds, so I took him to La Jolla Cove, Bolsa Chica, and two trips to Newport Back Bay. Of course I was shooting the entire time, too, but I didn't have time to even look at my photos while they were here, so this week I'm playing some catch up with all of that.

They had originally planned to drive up the coast through Big Sur but 101 was closed due to the fire. After a few days it didn't seem like they were making any progress with the fire so Bill and I helped them map out a route through Sequoia NP to Yosemite for a few days. Then over Tioga Pass to Mono Lake, then a stop by Bodie on their way to Yellowstone. Wouldn't you know the day before they left they announced that they anticipated opening the entire stretch of the 101 by Monday? Tough decision - Big Sur or Yosemite! But Big Sur would've meant staying with me another two days, and hotel reservations were already made at Yosemite.

I talked to them this afternoon. They had made it to June Lake (I sent them there since there were no rooms available in Lee Vining and Bill had nothing good to say about that town anyway). Tioga Pass was their favorite part so far, which made me breathe a sigh of relief. It is a beautiful drive, but the only thing on the other side for hours is Mono Lake and Lee Vining. My Dad said he was too tired to see the tufa towers tonight, and they're heading to Yellowstone tomorrow. If he stops at Mono Lake, it'll be too hot at midday for him to visit Bodie, so he's got a tough choice to make tomorrow morning.

Wish I could jump in my jeep and drive around photographing all of the national parks for the next few months.

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