05.29.22: Immature owls

A pair of immature Great Horned Owls watch the area from a tree in Green Lawn Cemetery, Columbus, Ohio.

A pair of immature Great Horned Owls watch the area from a tree in Green Lawn Cemetery, Columbus, Ohio.

An accidental find after a rather long search

After more than two hours of looking up at every tree I passed (and Green Lawn has many, many trees) I still hadn’t seen an owl. So I gave up, assuming I was in the wrong section of the cemetery.

I have a number of photographs of owls in my files. As a rule, I’ve found the owls during one of my photo hikes. I see an owl in a tree, take a photo and move on.

But this photo is an exception to the rule.

In this case, I specifically went to a location to try to get a photograph of an owl. And it was a heck of a lot more difficult than I expected.

I had heard that a Great Horned Owl was nesting in Green Lawn Cemetery on the south side of Columbus, Ohio. Nature officials weren’t disclosing the exact location of the nest, hoping to prevent hundreds of gawkers — and maybe some photographers — from showing up and disturbing the owl, but I knew the general area of the large cemetery where the nest was located.

So I drove down to the cemetery one morning and started searching for owls.

After more than two hours of looking up at every tree I passed (and Green Lawn has many, many trees) I still hadn’t seen an owl. So I gave up, assuming I was in the wrong section of the cemetery. Instead, I grabbed some shots of several groupings of Civil War-era grave stones so I’d have some photos from the trip, then started walking back to the car.

During the walk I glanced up in a tree and saw two immature Great Horned Owls staring back at me. I didn’t see the mother or father, who were likely somewhere nearby searching for food. And I expected the young owls to either move to a position where I couldn’t see them or, if they had fledged, fly to another tree.

Instead, the owls kept watching me, changing their head positions a bit each time I moved. So I was able to get a series of photos of the pair. I like this one because it shows the birds’ curiosity about what I was doing.

Immature Great Horned Owls begin to venture from the nest at about six weeks of age. Their feet are as big as they are going to get and incredibly strong. This is known as the “brancher stage,” when the birds venture out on branches but are still too young to fly. Soon after, the young owls will attempt short flights around the nest area. Once they start flying, they will still stay in the area with their parents for the rest of the summer.

An adult Great Horned Owl can be taller than 24 inches with a wingspan of more than 57 inches. 

Tech specs

  • Date/time: Apr 14, 2016 10:25 AM   
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Lens: EF600mm f/4L IS USM +1.4x 
  • Focal length: 840mm
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Shutter: 1/1000 second
  • ISO: 500

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