Words and Images from Ed Felker

Exciting and Utterly Unexpected Trail Cam Discovery

On several of my unsuccessful attempts to sneak up on our resident wood ducks with a camera, I reached a certain point in my sneakery when a large bird, presumably a hawk, flew from behind me directly over my head, fifteen feet off the ground. On one such occasion I raised my camera to my eye and snapped a single, blurry photo as my target quickly flew out of range. This is that image. Four times I received this fly-by, never seeing it coming and never able to identify where it came from. I had been walking for hundreds of yards, I never passed a hawk on a low branch and couldn’t figure out why one would come from higher up to dive bomb me.

owl3Then my friend Chris joined me for one of my wood duck photo attempts and sure enough, I get the fly-by. But this time I had a witness. Chris saw where the bird came from: this giant hole in a dead sycamore.

owl1But it still didn’t make sense. Hawks don’t live in tree cavities, or if they do, Google hasn’t learned of it yet. Still, we were positive it was a hawk, and Chris absolutely saw it come from that tree. So we set up a trail cam on the only available tree facing the sycamore and left it for a couple weeks. I checked it tonight and the first image on the card put everything into place. It wasn’t a hawk at all, it was an owl! And the nest in that hole is inhabited by at least one baby owl.

IMAG0047What a special discovery! I wish I could get the camera closer, these images are enlarged and cropped.

IMAG0053Excitedly scanning through over a hundred photos, I almost skipped right past this one. But there is a Mommy or Daddy owl hanging back in the shadow of the hole, keeping a close eye on the fuzzy little tyke.


I have 22 images showing owl activity, and they are all in the middle of the day for some reason. Between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. I don’t know why the sensor isn’t triggered when the adults go out hunting at night, maybe it’s too far away. Regardless, if the owl is making an appearance mid-day, I think it would be worth trying this idea: This shelter faces the river. The tree you see to the left of it is the Owl Tree. I think I will cut a hole in the back of the shelter big enough to watch through a telephoto lens, and see if maybe some patience can pay off with some baby owl photos.

photoIn the meantime, do any of my bird experts out there want to hazard a guess on the type of owl this might be? I can tell you that the adult bird that flew over my head was large, close to red-tail hawk sized.


8 responses

  1. Ed, as you may know I work at a raptor rehab center. We had over 60 Great Horned Owls last summer. I’m going to make a guess that’s what they are. The chicks remind me of little gremlins. How awesome!

    April 29, 2013 at 10:40 pm

  2. I would also say Great Horned owl from the description and photos. How cool to have that experience!

    April 29, 2013 at 10:42 pm

  3. So jealous! But happy for you having this encounter!

    April 29, 2013 at 11:55 pm

  4. Ilene

    I agree with Nell that it’s a Great Horned owl. I banded one of those amazing and powerful birds at our Rapter Rehab. You are so lucky to have a nest in your yard!

    April 30, 2013 at 6:33 am

  5. I enlarged one of the photos that had the adult and to me it looks like a great horned owl too. Such a great area you live in. Can’t wait to see the pics you get from the shed.

    April 30, 2013 at 6:53 am

  6. Wow, how exciting!! I’m going to try hard to get images with a real camera!

    April 30, 2013 at 9:17 am

  7. Larkie

    I understand your excitement. I have been watching a pair of Great Horned owl for the last seven years.

    June 4, 2013 at 7:12 pm

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