I spent yesterday morning photographing Burrowing Owls in northern Utah again and while most of it was fun there was something I found that broke my heart. If you don’t like graphic images please do not view the last image on this post.
The juvenile Burrowing Owls are fascinating little buggers and very hard for me to resist because they are often more expressive than the adults and can also seem more like little clowns of the desert.
The juvenile above was calling while in flight because an adult had flown in and landed on the burrow and I believe the young owl was calling for food.
This juvenile had landed on the barbed wire in front of the fence and when I could tell it was getting ready to lift off I fired a burst of frames to capture the action.
And the young owl dove towards the ground after prey. It did not appear to be successful but that area has a very high vole population and I am certain the young owl will be able to hone its hunting skills quite easily without going far from the burrow.
This image just makes me chuckle because of the diving pose and serious look of concentration the young owl seem to have. I like that I caught this frame while the foot of the owl is still on the fence post.
For a bit the adult female perched on the metal fence post over a juvenile owl that was perched below. I was able to rotate my camera and fit both of them in the frame and then noticed the female was about to expel a pellet and caught the pellet mid air. Later frames show the juvenile watching the pellet as it fell to the ground.
I’ve joined two separate frames together to show the differences between adults in the summer. When the owls first return from their breeding grounds it is a challenge to sex them because they are the same size but later in the summer the male has a more bleached out look and the female is darker which might occur because she spends more time in the darkness of the burrow and he spends more time in direct sunlight. Both of the images here were taken fairly early in the morning and just a few frames apart.
After leaving the burrow and exploring other areas of northern Utah I saw this very sad sight of what appears to be a dead juvenile Burrowing Owl hung up on a section of a barbed wire fence. It was heart breaking to see. The fence was on the property of the Golden Spike National Monument so after I got home I called them and told them where the owl was and the person I spoke to said they would dispatch someone to retrieve the owl’s body.
I also spoke to them about putting flags, tags or even strips of tape to help the owls see the fence line. Last evening it occurred to me that the flags or tags would be an excellent action to take because that same area has Greater Sage-Grouse, Chukars, Gray Partridges and possibly Sharp-tailed Grouse whose lives could also be saved by the flags on the fences. I’m not sure how to go about it but I’d like to work on getting this done to protect the birds.
Still, I can’t look at this image without feeling sadness for the loss of this owl’s life.
Life is still good.