By Dan Weisz
I like owls and springtime gives me a chance to look for nesting Great Horned Owls. Because they are nesting, they often remain in the same areas for a period of months making it easier to observe them once they are located.
Last year a friend told me about a pair of Great Horned Owls that frequented a nearby wash. I’ve been going by somewhat regularly lately and finally saw the pair of owls hidden deeply behind the thick twigs of a large palo verde tree.
This owl gave me a side glance and then when I walked over a bit to try to find a more open look at the bird, it turned its head to face me directly.
The other owl in this pair was too well hidden for any good photos, so I walked further up the wash to a spot where I had seen a Western Screech Owl last year. At first when I looked at the opening in the dead tree, the hollow was empty. As my friend and I spoke and milled around, our footsteps apparently piqued the owl’s curiosity. It suddenly appeared at the opening and mostly listened rather than looked. My friend, trying to get a better angle to photograph the owl, stepped through some very brittle dead brush, making a loud noise and causing the owl to drop back down into the hollow.
I then drove to a location a few miles away where I had seen a Great Horned Owl nest last year. Over the past month, I have visited this spot weekly. I had seen the mom sitting on the nest and I was waiting for new life to appear. This week, she was sitting on the perfect perch spot next to the nest and two little Great Horned Owlets made an appearance!!
The mother Great Horned Owl is a stunning bird. Even with the nest perhaps 40-60 feet up in the tree, the mom kept a good look at us. Birdnote has a piece about nesting Great Horned Owls: https://www.birdnote.org/listen/shows/great-horned-owl-nest
I walked under her perch just to see what she looked like straight up. This certainly is a different angle to see an owl from! I love how the wind curled the feathers under her body. Great Horned Owls ’nest’ early rather than waiting until spring. To learn why, we turn to Birdnote once more: https://www.birdnote.org/listen/shows/great-horned-owls-nest
We then drove to a ’new’ nest site for me at a location right off of the I-10 freeway along a busy road in an industrial type of area. In a very thickly leaved tree on the landscaped island in the middle of the parking lot, we finally were able to spot our target. The mother Great Horned owl was perched within a few feet of her nest.
Inside the nest two little owlet heads poked their heads out to take a look at the two photographers in the parking lot below. There could be a third owlet in either of the nests I visited but I don’t know. It’s one more thing to discover as I follow these nests over the next month or so.
If you happen to know of any Great Horned Owl nests in your neighborhood or any regularly roosting owls, please let me know. I would be happy to drop by and take a look at them. I will keep my distance and limit my time so the birds will not feel pressured.