My Summer Evening Visitor
This summer of 2011, in the late afternoons, I have had the pleasure of watching a rare visitor to my yard . A great horned owl has taken up residence in my tallest elm tree. Just about every afternoon when the sun drops to a lazy angle, the owl moves to an open branch and begins to preen. Then as dusk descends, off it flies to begin its nocturnal activities.
One morning the owl happened to be on a branch where the sun light was catching it so I quickly grabbed my Nikon 500mm 4.0 lens. Upon focusing in on the owl's face, I noticed that the right eye socket appeared to be empty. I took several more photos and sure enough, this was a one-eyed owl! After carefully examining the photos in Lightroom, I saw that the eye socket was hollow. In amazement, I wondered how this owl could have lost the eye ball.
I have seen great horned owls around this area before and have heard them vocalizing at night with the familiar "who, who, who" sounds. Curiosity got the better of me, so I went to Google to look for more information. So far, I haven't been able to find anything that might explain the eye loss, but I did uncover some interesting facts.
On the website, "About Falconry", I learned that 95% of an owl's brain power is taken up simply for its eyes and that the eyes of owls are larger than other birds of prey. Bearing this in mind, I wondered how my owl was able to adapt with just the one eye.
Every afternoon when I am home, I've made it a ritual to go out and watch my friend. Great horned owls are amazing hunters that strike from above with their powerful talons. Their diet consist of reptiles, smaller mammals, birds and rodents but they have been known to prey on larger animals including cats, dogs, other raptors and even owls. After looking around on the ground, I've come to realize that my owl is eating quite well. I found a large number of castings or pellets that were regurgitated from the indigestible material of bones, fur and beaks.
The owls in North America have always carried great lore and superstition. Many people are afraid of the beautiful birds and I have been told by some that the hoot of an owl means there will soon be a death. I grew up watching 2 white owls that lived in my Aunt's windmill tank and on many a southern night, listened to their screech. I feel very fortunate that my one-eyed owl has taken up residence in my yard. We each peacefully coexist and go our separate ways and enjoy watching each other from a distance.
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With my Nikon and tripod, my goal is to recreate the scene as it appears in nature, to preserve in a photographic image the awesome, yet simplistic beauty of the scene that waits around a bend or over a hill. Sometimes it's a colorful landscape, and many times I'm allowed in the presence of the numerous creatures that adapt to life in the wild.
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