Monday, September 28, 2015

Of Blood Moons and Great Horned Owls



Well, the supermoon lunar eclipse/"Blood Moon" was a magnificent sight  for those who were actually able to see it, as you may be able to gather from the time lapse video above. At my house, it was a total bust. We had had light rain throughout the day and the cloud cover was just too dense to be able to view the eclipse.

But as the eclipse unfolded unseen above our heads, we did have a bit of excitement in our backyard. Some seldom-seen or heard visitors came calling.


Great Horned Owls! There were two of the birds, one in the old magnolia tree and another in a crape myrtle. They carried on a lengthy conversation with each other before my presence on the patio startled them, I think, and they flew over to the large pine trees in our neighbor's yard and continued hooting there.


For some reason, it always surprises me that we are host to Great Horned Owls. I expect Barred Owls, the quintessential owl of southern swamps because the habitat here seems very friendly to them, but, actually, I more often hear the Great Horned Owls at night so perhaps I need to modify my expectations.

When I say that I more often hear them at night, I don't mean to imply that they are frequently heard. In fact, it has been several months since I last heard them, but, obviously, they must be around all the time.

Great Horned Owls are probably the most ubiquitous of North American owls. They live in nearly all habitats of the continent except for the very far north around the Arctic Circle. They are large, aggressive, powerful owls that have earned their nickname of "tiger owl." Their favorite prey is mammals such as rabbits, opossums, rats, mice, squirrels, and skunks. They are even known to take on porcupines, sometimes with fatal consequences for both predator and prey. They also take some snakes, frogs, and birds, including other predators like hawks and owls.

They hunt mostly at night, sometimes at dusk. They watch from a high perch somewhere until they are able to identify prey and then swoop down on silent wings to capture it.  

These big birds are generally permanent residents where they live, although some of them may wander long distances in fall and winter, often in a more southerly direction, looking for prey. It's likely that the two I heard last night are local birds and perhaps I will hear them again sometime soon. Or many months from now. Most likely I will hear them many times before the next Blood Moon comes around in 2033. 
   

4 comments:

  1. I often hear owls here at night, but I never see them during the daytime, so I have no idea what they are. Just once I'd like to catch a glimpse of them. We were lucky to see much of the eclipse Sunday night before the clouds rolled in. I'm not usually a stargazer, but I was fascinated by this Blood Moon.

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    1. It would have been wonderful to be able to see it live, but I'm glad that at least those of us thwarted by clouds get a chance to see it on video.

      If you are interested in identifying your owls, you can go to the website "All About Birds" and listen to the audio of different owls to see which one fits yours. Your most likely candidates would be Great Horned Owl or Barred Owl if it is a hooter. There should be Screech Owls in your area, too, but their sound is different.

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  2. How cool! But given the blood moon perhaps it was a bad omen... :-)

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    1. Nope, getting to add Great Horned Owl to my daily list of birds could never be a bad omen!

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