Great Horned Owls… In Our Yard!!!

We moved to an acreage near Spruce Meadows about two months ago.  The very next morning, while enjoying our morning coffee around 5:30am (yes, we are “early birds” lol),  we heard a soft “hoot hoot hoot” nearby.  We recognized the sound as a call from a Great Horned Owl  – we were thrilled!

Over the next few weeks this owl remained elusive. We often heard it in the wee hours of the morning but never saw it.  Then one morning something changed– there was an answer back — there were TWO owls communicating with each other!  Needless to say we were pretty excited and wondered if they had a nest somewhere nearby — although we searched we couldn’t find it.

Finally last week we had our first sighting!  We were sitting down to dinner when a large bird flew low along the back fence-line and then swooped up and landed on the very top of a 45 foot tall spruce tree.  It was dusk but we managed to snatch a few photos of the owl while perched on this high vantage point as it began its evening hunt for food.  OUR dinner got cold while all this happened 😉

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(on the tree top in low light at dusk)

This morning we were walking outside when two owls flew out of a spruce next to the house and and landed in another tree about 150 yards away.  They were perched in plain view, with good light, and we were able to capture a few good photos of this lovely owl couple 🙂

16C_0495-1(this appears to be the smaller of the two which would indicate it is the male)

16C_0571 copy-1-2(if we’re right about the male, by default this would be the female)

Now the big question is… do they have a nest in the tree and do they have young ones?  We intend to find out (without bothering the owls, of course).

Stay tuned…hopefully we’ll have some photos of cute owlets soon!

Marcy & Ray Stader

StaderArt Birds

Magic Moment… Mating Hooded Mergansers!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

It was a perfect evening for exploring side roads in the Priddis area when we came upon a picturesque little pond.  As we rolled to a stop, we noticed a beaver in the pond working away on a piece of wood.  A few minutes later we found its mate and we watched and photographed the beavers doing their busy work around the pond.

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We hadn’t noticed a pair of Hooded Mergansers sleeping on a grass tuft in the pond until their nap was over and they started swimming across the water.  The evening light was perfect and we watched them swim, dive, and preen for at least half an hour until something special happened.

First, we witnessed the Hooded Mergansers “dance” with each other – a beautiful ritual of splashing and preening in synchronicity.  We suspected the dance might lead from one thing to another…and we were not disappointed!

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After some time, the female laid her head down low against the water, and waited patiently for Mr. Handsome to strut his stuff… but Mr. Handsome wasn’t in a hurry and seemed more interested in putting on a good show than getting on with the show!  He raised his crest over and over, splished and splashed until everything was just right.  However, our boy eventually finished his performance and the pair mated right in front of our eyes. In the photo, you can see how he was holding her crest with his beak and “steering” her in the water.

It’s not everyday you see Hooded Mergansers, let alone mating Hooded Mergansers, so we are extremely fortunate to witness nature at its very best this evening – a magic moment.

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Marcy & Ray Stader

StaderArt Birds