While We Are Sleeping
While we are sleeping things are happening in the natural world. Activity does not stop and there may actually be more action than we see during the day. For example, many birds migrate in darkness and the predator/prey relationship is carried out with regularity. I will provide a few examples of both, beginning with a predator/prey relationship example.
Today I was roaming through a timber when I spooked a large owl perched near the top of a not too tall tree. Had the owl remained still, I likely would not have seen it. But, its movement gave away the bird’s location. I stopped to watch the owl that promptly flew a short distance away. What I was not expecting was that as the owl took flight it dropped the food it was eating. Just like that the back half of a cottontail rabbit plopped to the ground only a few feet away. Based on the freshness of the carcass it was easy to tell the owl had hunted the rabbit during the night and was in the process of consuming its meal. i did photograph the rabbit remains, but will spare you the visuals.
Since the owl had not moved too far away, I quietly hiked in the direction I last saw it. There it was, perched high in a tree watching me watching it. The species was a great horned owl – one species that I am seldom able to approach closely unless I am watching young great horned owls in their nest.
Great Horned Owl:
A second owl engaged in plenty of nighttime activity is the barred owl. I did not see this one hunting or eating anything. In fact, other than looking around periodically, this owl was pretty sleepy. Surprisingly it remained on perch long enough for several pictures with varying compositions to be created.
I am hesitant to share this next owl picture. While we were sleeping recently a saw-whet owl arrived in our area. Due to the very tolerant nature and cute appearance of saw-whet owls, they tend to nearly be loved to death. What I am referring to happens when people learn of the location of the little photogenic owls and visit them repeatedly. It is important that we remember that the owls are resting during the day so they can hunt to eat at night to insure survival. Frequent human traffic disrupts their natural pattern.
Please do not misunderstand my comments. It is great that people enjoy seeing the owls and in the process develop a greater appreciation of our natural world. However, we do need to be careful that we are not loving our wildlife to death. Find them, take pictures if you want, and leave them. Repeat a few times during the winter while they are around, but do so in moderation.
Having said that, I will share my photo. I found the owl, took pictures, and left. I will not go back for a while out of respect for the owl.