I’ll get back to some more wild horse posts soon; today I have an exciting adventure to share!
Last night,a long-time dream came true for me! For the past 5-6 years, I have been inquiring around the rural community I live in, in hopes of finding a Barn Owl (Tyto alba) to photograph. The Barn Owl shows up as being within our range, but is extremely rare to find one in Missouri. In fact, whenever one is located, it makes the state’s birding list. And it is very unusual to get a location for the bird; often, the location is kept secret to prevent the birders from flocking to it. Well, I found not only a Barn Owl, but a nesting pair with several young owlets!
So how did I make this find? One of my volunteer activities I’m involved with is leading a Photography Club for the local 4-H organization. I currently have about a dozen kids that attend regular meetings and we’re even starting to do some field trips. After one of our recent meetings, one of the parents approached me and said “We’ve got a Barn Owl nesting in one of our grain bins and I bed you’d like to photograph it.” Well, I wasn’t too excited; I thought the parent meant a “Barred” owl, so I replied, “Oh, you mean a Barred Owl?”. Her response was, “No, a Barn Owl. You know, one of those owls with a heart-shaped face.” Getting more excited, but still a bit reluctant, I said “Yes, I would love to photograph it.” With that, she sent her son out to their car to retrieve a photo they had taken just a few days earlier. When he returned, I immediately recognized it as an adult Barn Owl with at least 2 small, fuzzy owlets under her wing!
Well, last night I visited their farm to see the owls firsthand. After a brief chat, I was led to a small group of grain bins. After climbing straight up the ladder of one of the bins, we opened up the bin cover and looked in. At first, I saw only darkness. But a few seconds later, I noted some movement on the other side of the bin. Holding my point/shoot camera inside the bin, I quickly grabbed this shot:
You can clearly see the adult (with outstretched wing) and one young owl “hissing” at me. There is also a second owl, lying on the grain. I’m not sure if this one is alive; with our recent mid-90’s temperatures, it has to be very hot in the bin!
Afterward, I met with her husband and talked to him. He told me that earlier in the day he saw 2 young, fledgling owls with an adult in one of their barns. A quick look found nothing, but there are several barns/buildings that they could have been in. He told me that he hoped they would move from the grain bin soon, as he really needed to get the beans out of the bin. Sensing a bit of frustration on his part, I then made him an offer: I would gladly fabricate a wooden nest box that we could mount in one of the barns, if he would allow me (I wanted to assure protection for these rare birds). He gladly accepted the offer, so I will be making one this fall so that maybe we can get the owls to nest in the barn and leave the grain bins alone.
Oh, and one last thing to mention. While I was at the farm last night, I was given unfettered access to drop over any time and photograph the Barn Owls! So, I’m already planning some upcoming visits … looking forward to sharing some more images with you … particularly as the young fledge and move around the property.