Yesterday morning I spotted a Coyote walking across a road on Antelope Island, then I noticed some ticked off Black-billed Magpies near the coyote. Soon after that I saw the shape of a larger bird near where the Coyote had gone into the sagebrush which turned out to be an adult Short-eared Owl. The Owl flew around where I suspected the Coyote to be then it landed on top of a sagebrush. The Coyote had obviously upset the owl.
When I am out looking for birds to photograph I’m not always just looking for the birds themselves, instead I have found that by paying attention to habitat, movements and other animals in the area that it can often lead to interesting surprises as it did yesterday. I knew that the owl normally wouldn’t have been bothered by the presence of the Coyote unless…
I had seen the Short-eared Owl adults in this particular area over the past several weeks and had wondered if they had a nest nearby. I don’t need to wonder any more.
In just a few moments I saw an adult owl fly in with prey and it landed in the grasses, as it did that there was a flutter of wings, too many to be just from the adult owl. Driving around in that general area I could see movement here and there, the shape of a head then the eyes of fledgling owls. There were possibly four juveniles that were spread out all over the grassy field. They were hidden by the grasses and vegetation but not hidden enough for my well trained eye.
I don’t know how the adult Short-eared Owls keep up with the location of the fledglings but they did not seem to have any real problems spotting them when they were bringing in prey to feed the young owls. Trying to keep up with two teenagers used to give me massive headaches I can not imagine having 4 or more spread out all willy-nilly!
Both the male and female adult Short-eared Owls kept very busy hunting and then bringing in the prey to the fledglings. The fledgling owls made hissing noises which I assume not only help the adults locate them but it might also express the degree of hunger they have. Later in the morning as the temperatures rose the activity slowed down dramatically. I believe the owls were trying to find shelter from the heat in the vegetation nearby.
While I did not bring home any spectacular shots because the fledgling Short-eared Owls were simply too far away I did bring home some fantastic memories of this Short-eared Owl family. I also learned more about the species by observing them without my presence upsetting their normal behavior which may help me in the future in obtaining images of Short-eared Owls near their chicks.
So, a coyote’s behavior along with the ticked off Black-billed Magpies lead me to an very interesting find. Had I not seen those behaviors I may have not spotted the owls and their young.
PS; the image directly above was my favorite of the owl images I created yesterday. A hidden beauty.