Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Few of The "Great" Ones

I've encountered a few of the "great ones" lately. And they really are great from what I can tell.

This past Saturday my wife and I spent most of the day winterizing the home and yard and preparing for a large gathering of family for the Thanksgiving holiday. That's really "the" greatest--fun times with family, especially our two little grandchildren who will be coming from Arizona. After a long day of work around the home and shopping I had about 90 minutes to venture out before the sun went down.

I decided to drive down to the Provo Airport Dike in Provo, Utah. Upon my arrival I found a very quiet place. Birds and animals were nigh unto completely-absent. The sky was filled with heavy cloud cover, no rays of sunlight were penetrating the clouds anywhere, and there was a slow steady breeze that was rather chilly. Fifteen minutes into my adventure I began to think I'd have to go on an owl hunt. With birds and wildlife hunkering down I figured my best bet would be to go after a large bird with fewer hiding places than usual due to many of the leaves having fallen from the trees for the winter. I parked my truck and began to walk southward with the waters of Utah Lake to my right and very tall phragmite and woods to my left. I was scanning the wooded area where I had hopes of finding a Great Horned Owl.

When I go looking for owls I try to get multiple views of every likely hiding place. Yesterday, I made my first pass with no luck. However, on the second pass coming from a different angle I saw the shape of a Great Horned Owl. I don't know how to express that feeling of such a discovery in the wild.
Great Horned Owl on Provo Airport Dike in Provo, UT
Great Horned Owl on Provo Airport Dike in Provo, UT
This owl was very content in his hiding place away from the beaten path. He remained perched so I took a few other photos.

Great Horned Owl on Provo Airport Dike in Provo, UT
I'm including the image below because it shows a bit of the white trim on the half-blinked right eye of the owl.

Great Horned Owl on Provo Airport Dike in Provo, UT
The profile below provides a nice look at the ear tufts that give the owl its common name of "Great Horned" Owl.

Great Horned Owl on Provo Airport Dike in Provo, UT
Some people confuse Great Horned with Long-eared Owl because both have long tufts and yellow around their eyes. However, the Great Horned Owl shows more of a white throat and barring on the belly where Long-eared shows more of a bark-looking belly.

Great Horned on the left, Long-eared on the right.


The perspective below shows how multiple feathers create the tuft of Great Horned Owls.

Great Horned Owl on Provo Airport Dike in Provo, UT
On my way off the dike I caught a quick glance of what looked like the tufts of a Great Horned Owl. I backed up the truck, pulled out the binoculars and found another Great Horned Owl. Considering how close these owls were in proximity causes me to believe they are a pair, which may likely begin mating as early as January. These owls tend to begin breeding during the winter months.

Great Horned Owl on Provo Airport Dike in Provo, UT
I had a close encounter of the "Great Blue" kind about a week ago when I dropped by Sandy Pond in Sandy, Utah on my way home from work. There is almost always a Great Blue Heron on that pond. I thought the clouds with a slight pink cast from the setting sun provided a subtle beauty to the background. If I were a PhotoShop user I'd probably like to enhance the pinkish color in the background.

Great Blue Heron at Sunset in Sandy, UT
Here are a few other images of Great Blue Herons I've seen along the way. The next two are of a young Great Blue Heron. Adults have white crowns, this one is essentially blue.

Young Great Blue Heron American Fork Marina American Fork, UT
Young Great Blue Heron American Fork Marina American Fork, UT
Here's an adult Great Blue Heron sporting it white crown.

Great Blue Heron Long Beach, CA
And another adult in flight.

Great Blue Heron in Flight St George, UT
Great Egrets are beautiful birds.

Great Egret Utah County, UT
Great Egret Chandler, AZ
Great Egret in Flight in Lehi, UT
Great Egret Hunting in Lehi, UT
Great Egrets in Flight Over Lehi, UT
Now, from the big "great ones" to a much smaller great one. This one is great because of the size of its tail--the Great-tailed Grackle. These birds remind me of magpies in that they tend to show up where people are (e.g. parking lots, beaches, fast food restaurants, etc.) primarily because people tend to leave enough scraps around for the birds to cleanup/eat.

Great-tailed Grackle Chandler, AZ
Great-tailed Grackle at Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
The young and female Great-tailed grackles don't have such great tails.

Great-tailed Grackle Utah County, UT
Great-tailed Grackle Parked By a Red Curb Drinking Water in Wickenberg, AZ


  1. It's amazing how a change of angle reveals things at times. It will be interesting if you are able to keep tabs on the Owls.

    1. I would love to learn that they are a pair and that they are successful in bringing a new generation of owls into the world.