Wednesday, June 17, 2009

June Babies: Owls and More at the Swamp

I received a tip from a couple of birders/photographers that a family of Great Horned Owls lived in the vicinity of a swamp just a few minutes from our home. I have seen Snowy Owls in the winter but have never seen any other type of owl in the wild. There have been various "Owl Prowls" at local conservation areas but they take place after dark and are more about hearing than seeing these birds. The trail was familiar to me but I had to go off the path and climb a sizable esker before descending to a small creek and swamp. Every step I took in the bush stirred up mosquitoes but when I got to the opening, a breeze kept them at bay. I sat on a mossy log and took a picture of the view. Scanning with binoculars, I found the juvenile Great Horned Owl in a pine tree in the opposite end of the swamp. I was surprised to make the discovery at three in the afternoon.

Young Great Horned Owl peeking through the branches

I returned early the next morning before work (this time with bug repellent) and saw the same owl in a pine tree much closer to my seat. For such a large bird, it was well camouflaged in the tree as it sat motionless for over an hour. When I looked at my pictures later it seemed that the bird spent much of its time with its large eyes closed. Babies do need lots of sleep. Just as I was leaving, a group of crows started harassing the young owl and it flew deeper into the bush.

Sleepy baby

The swamp was alive with more than mosquitoes and from my log I watched a Great Crested Flycatcher, a Belted Kingfisher and two Great Blue Herons as they looked for food. Directly across from me a pair of House Wrens brought a succession of bugs to their nest in a dead stump. They would sing loudly from a branch when they were not feeding the young wrens.

House Wren in its nest

This past Sunday a couple of friends were sitting at the same location early in the morning when a young coyote stepped out of the rushes. They reported that some emergency vehicles drove on a nearby road with sirens on, (this is an industrial/residential zone of the city) and the swamp came alive with the howls of several invisible coyotes. I hoped to see a young coyote when I came early in the morning but was not lucky enough to have one come out in the open even though I could hear movement in the area. Andre has kindly allowed me to post this picture he took of the pup which looks very healthy and inquisitive.

Coyote Pup (Andre Secours)

The swamp was inaccessible by foot beyond where I stood which is likely why it offered such a variety of birds and animals. Many other creatures with young were hidden in the vegetation. But I was very happy to find the owl, a species that is not rare, but is rarely seen due to its secretive ways.


  1. I have really enjoyed your wildlife and nature posts Ruth...
    Michelle From Rambling Woods

  2. Love that Owl.

  3. What a great place to nature watch. Seeing an owl in the wild is pretty special.

  4. Ruth--I am so happy to read about the various wildlife you can observe. I am particularly in need of such news as I am disheartened by animal kills around here. Our local news featured a story yesterday that a yearling black bear had been seen around, and then later was struck and killed on a major highway. Then today, I saw a dead fox. I need to know that there are places where wildlife can live.

  5. The Great Horned was an awesome sighting. Of course so was everything else. And the young coyote your friend saw is very handsome indeed. Maybe you'll see them on your next visit, with the bug spray. Great captures. Especially like the first owl shot, it's as if its trying to hide behind the branches while still keeping an eye on you. Marvelous post.

  6. I thought of you today as I sat huddled inside my car in defense against the bugs at the edge of Crowe River.

    I saw what is for me a unique bird. When I looked in the Ontario Birds book in the cottage, it appears to be a banded kingfisher if I'm remembering correctly. (Looking nothing like the tropical varieties I am seeing on the web.)

    I expect you'll be sending me a box of cookies as a reward. :)

  7. Loved that pic of the sleepy baby owl. He sure looks big for a baby! Thanks for taking us on your walk, only we didn't get bitten by any bugs! LOL!
    Almost forgot - what a sweet coyote (can coyotes be sweet?) Probably not.

  8. This are looks perfect for a variety of birds and animals.The owl pictures are great.Glad you had this experience.

  9. Oh, a baby owl!! Lucky you Ruth. :c) Love seeing that coyote pup too.

  10. Oh Ruth, what a cool post! I loved seeing the pictures of owl and coyote.
    It was interesting that you mentioned about the emergency vehicle siren.....I remember a few years ago I was up really early one winter morning out in our neighborhood trying to find where a GH Owl was hooting from and an ambulance went by with its siren blasting. After it got past me, I could hear coyotes howling in a nearby field too. It was pretty neat.

  11. I have never seen an owl in my ramblings. Perhaps I'm not looking closely enough. Great photographs and nice post.

  12. Mexico Mom8:59 pm GMT-4

    Our black and white merganser duck is proudly exhibiting her 8 new ducklings. They range from black with bright yellow to bright yellow with black and one all bright yellow. Sad to say they refuse to stay in the pen and their mother takes them out at all hours. They are a real favorite for coyotes.
    Mama has her "hands" full. So far after 2 weeks there are still 8.
    Yesterday they were out in a tremendous rain and wind storm but all survived.

  13. What a wonderful capture!

  14. That;s a sweet House Wren, Ruth.
    I see we both have been out swamping and a'swatting!


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