Thursday, September 10, 2020

Beauty is in the eye of the Barn Owl

I first encountered a Barn Owl in our local wetlands preserve in 2015, when I saw one on the top of a dead Royal Palm along the gravel entry path. That tree was subsequently removed and replaced by another which also died.  

According to Cornell University's global eBird database, this species has never before been reported to breed anywhere in southern Broward County. The nearest historical sightings occurred in undeveloped areas in Miami-Dade County about 4 miles / 6.4 kilometers to the south.and in Broward County 10.5 miles / 17 kilometers to the north. I never saw another until I photographed one in flight near this location in February, 2019.

Since then they have been present consistently. These are earlier photos:

Barn Owl 02-20200408

Barn Owl 03-20200408

Here is the topless palm tree in an undeveloped spot where I first saw a Barn Owl, in August, 2015:

Palm trunk Barn Owl roost 20150811

Although I never saw them again until 2019, I was encouraged when I found this wing feather in October, 2018, very close to the old tree:

Barn Owl wing feather 20181009

I suspected that they may have been nesting on the top of another Royal Palm behind a home across the gravel road. This tree had also died and lost its foliage. I heard and recorded a young owl nearby only a few weeks ago (Link to eBird checklist)

This species nests all year round. This week there were two Barn Owls occupying the top of this second tree, too dark for my camera, so here is the daytime view (along with our neighbor's  regulation-compliant fence):

Barn Owl nest tree 01-20200830

Our homeowners association contracts with landscapers to maintain the area along the berm where the nest tree is located.  Many people cannot stand the sight of an old dead tree and I feared they may be planning to remove and replace it with a more "fitting" representative of our refined community. The Barn Owl does not see it this way.

Therefore, I worked with the homeowners association on a plan to to protect the nest tree. A pair of Barn Owls and their brood can eat as many as 3,000 rodents in a single nesting season, so they are much more efficient than a pest control company. While they are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and they are the least numerous among Florida's 5 owl species, they are not threatened or endangered. 

Happy to say that my mobility and energy have vastly improved since starting on Prednisone. MaryLou and I have been out about an hour before sunrise almost every morning. We arranged for Juan, a fellow birder to meet us on the way in and he was treated to seeing both Barn Owls as they emerged from the palm trunk and flew overhead, their pure white undersides reflecting the glare of our flashlights.

As we were observing the Barn Owls we heard an Eastern Screech-Owl calling nearby. Juan located it and I obtained poor photos with the help of his flashlight:

Eastern Screech-Owl 01-20200829

Eastern Screech-Owl 03-20200829

That day I logged over 10,000 steps for the first time in almost a month as we trekked into a more primitive area of the preserve on the Bar Ditch Trail. As we walked westward, Juan turned around to capture the rising sun:

Sunrise captured by Juan 20200829

Were it not for the sound of airplanes and distant traffic, we could have been lost, deep in the wilderness:

Bar Ditch Trail 05-20200829

A motley molting Blue Jay was missing his splendid head-dress:

Blue Jay molting 01-20200829

Later we spotted one almost completely feathered:

Blue Jay 20200825

A female Prairie Warbler appeared against the blue sky:

Prairie Warbler 03-20200829

The male Prairie Warbler was partially obscured in the brush:

Prairie Warbler 02-20200829

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers flitted about actively:

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 01-20200826

Northern Cardinals were numerous, a male...

Northern Cardinal 08-20200526

...and female posed for photos:

Northern Cardinal female  04-20200526

An Ovenbird appeared briefly:

Ovenbird 02-20200826

Ovenbird 01-20200826

There were fresh Bobcat tracks...

Bobcat print 01-20200826

...Raccoon hand-prints...

Raccoon prints 29299826

...and evidence of a large feral hog:

Feral hog print 20200826

A White-tailed Deer with deformed antlers stepped out into the path in front of us:

White-taled Deer one-horn buck 01-20200826

A pair of Loggerhead Shrikes rested together in a treetop:

Loggerhead Shrikes 2-20200825

Two Yellow Warblers were passing through, southbound:

Yellow Warblers 01-20200818

Yellow Warbler 09-20200818

Among the insects, a richly patterned Horace's Duskywing...

Horace's Duskywing - Erynnis horatius 02-20200820

...and a Band-winged Dragonlet (Erythrodyplax umbrata):

Dragonfly 01-202008120

Back home and in seclusion, we enjoyed a visit from the mamma Muscovy Duck, who hatched out 15 ducklings in our back yard. She now was guarding the last four survivors of her brood. Turtles, bass, cats, herons and hawks are not kind to baby ducks:

Muscovy ducklings 02-20200819

Muscovy ducklings 03-20200819

Muscovy ducklings 04-20200819

White Ibises gathered along the shore:

White Ibises 02-20200525

Opposite to the sunrise, the anti-solar rays reflected on dust blown in from the Sahara Desert and the shadows of clouds intersected over the Everglades:

Before sunrise 03-20200830

Morning sun touched the south wet prairie:

South wet prairie 20200831

Great Egret in morning light:

Great Egret 06-20200830

The egret cast a meager reflection on the breeze-dimpled lake surface:

Great Egret 05-20200830

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to:

Fences Around the World

Skywatch Friday

Weekend Reflections

Saturday's Critters


Camera Critters

All Seasons

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Natasha Musing

Our World Tuesday


Please visit the links to all these posts to see some excellent photos on display



  1. The account of the Barn Owl is very encouraging. They are now used to great effect in those dreadful green deserts called palm oil plantations in Asia, as an efficient and inexpensive method of rodent control. A snag saved is a victory for conservation!

  2. glad you're feeling better and am very happy the owls can continue to nest in the old palm. good news for once

  3. I hear and owl or owls outside my bedroom window almost every night as I fall asleep, but I rarely see them. Bravo for protecting the nesting tree!

  4. I don't think I've ever seen a photo of a hog track! A bunch of wonderful bird pictures!

  5. Amazing pics.Thanks for the beautiful post.Stay well.

  6. Wow! You see so much more on your walks than I ever did here when I could hike. Love the part about the owls.

  7. I am thrilled with this large selection of magical bird photos.
    I'll never see such specimens alive!
    Thanks for that.
    My sky

  8. Glad to hear your health and mobility has improved and you can get out before sunrise. The light at that time of the day in your images is amazing Kenneth. Love all the bird shot especially the 2nd one of the Oven bird. It is a wonderful account of the owls and good to hear you have done your bit. I hope you have a wonderful weekend

  9. Beautiful pictures. Glad you managed to convince the residents in your area to keep the dead tree for the nesting owls. I had no idea they ate so many rodents. I came over from Stevenson's Timeless Thursdays.

  10. Hello Ken,
    Your post is just action packed with nature and beautiful things. I am glad you are feeling well, the meds help a lot. I would love to see the Barn Owl in the wild, they are beautiful. I have seen the Screech Owl in my front yard, they are cool to hear and see. Love the Warblers and Shrikes. Your sky and scenic views are lovely. Great photos. Take care and stay safe. Thank you for linking up your post. Enjoy your day, have a happy weekend. PS, thank you for leaving me a comment.

  11. Wow there were some fabulous shots here. I love owls but rarely see them. We've had one in our trees recently at night but can never get a good glimpse of it.

  12. I love the pretty Warblers and of course the beautiful owls! We've only seen a few and the sightings are rare and far between! I just worked on a post with a track I was wondering about. Now I think it might have been a Bobcat track. HHHHmmmm! Interesting! I love getting out and it will start getting a little cooler soon. If I have a little breeze, it makes all the difference. Enjoy your weekend! Love your photos!

  13. What a fantastic collection of photos! I'm glad you were able to get the homeowners association to leave the tree alone. Visiting from I'd Rather B Birdin :)

  14. Hello. You have a lot of beautiful nature near you. Thank you for sharing.

  15. I loved reading about saving the palm! That was a "feel good" story we all need these days. And beautiful feather. Of course, all your photos are terrfic, that goes without saying...the jay will soon be dapper again in his new 'coat'. And good for you...hope the meds continue to work wonders! (great knowing the #'d storm wasn't a big threat.

    Thanks for linking in at IRBB this weekend.

  16. Kenneth! those ducks won it for me! they are so adorable not just as they are but also the way you took their picture! The barn owls scare me so so much because of the flat looking face that they have, I can;t stare at it for a long time because it haunts me and think that they may visit in my dream waaaa. But I've seen some owls in my life as well and I have to agree that they are cute and wise looking, just barn owls, they scare me HAHA (I hope that doesn't make me weird HAHA).

    Thank you so much Kenneth for joining Timeless Thursdays again this week, seeing you on the linky always makes me super happy :)

  17. Another impressive collection of photographs, Ken!

    Kudos on working with the HOA to save the palm snag. I am terribly jealous of your Barn Owls!

    Outstanding landscape photos (and skyscapes). The Yellow Warblers have arrived here as well to announce fall migration is underway.

    Have a great new week!

  18. Good for you in convincing the association about the benefits of the barn owls and saving their nesting spot. It's sad that so many natural habitats are destroyed. I have never seen owls up close so enjoyed these images, Kenneth. And you certainly get to see more birds on your walks and glad to read that they have been pain free. After reading an earlier post about symptoms of PMR, I checked with my medical professional as I've been having some similarly presenting issues with my right arm. Thankfully, the blood work did not reveal PMR.

  19. I love all owls and so glad that 'your' Barn Owl appears to have returned. Sorry I am behind with visits but the kitchen here has been working in overtime. So much in the garden. Take care, Diane

  20. Nice reflections and I love the owl pics!

  21. Glad your health has improved and you are able to get out again. Gorgeous photos as always. Loved reading about the owls. Glad you were able to work with the HOA to protect the nest tree. And I sure hope the last 4 ducklings make it out in the world. Have a wonderful new week!

  22. Thank you for your efforts to work with the HOA to protect the habitat of the barn owls! Thanks also for sharing these wonderful photos at

  23. Looks like you had a very successful week 'bagging' all those birds and creatures.

  24. Your camera caught the translucent dragonfly wings perfectly. The Muscovy duck is a beauty. It’s good to know at least some of her ducklings are surviving … nature can be very tough.

  25. Amazing nature photography ~ especially enjoy the Owls and Baby ducks ~ Wonderful post and photography and you are one busy man protecting nature where he can ~ Thank you.

    Live each moment with love,

    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  26. Your photos are always stunning and such a pleasure to view. I loved all the info about the owls. Despite being a senior, I have yet to see an owl in the wild.It is one of my dreams to see them in the wild. I did see a beautiful fox the other day, which I had never seen before either.

  27. Very nice (as usual!) - I am still to catch up with a Barn Owl in Australia - I seem to arrive just after they leave! Maybe 2020 will do something nice and give me on soon!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  28. Good work protecting the barn owl's habitat. Great photos. You see an amazing range of wildlife on your walks.

  29. Wow Ken, your captures of the first owl are phenomenal! What a beautiful bird:) At least you have blear enough pics of the second owl. That poor deer has taken a beating, but he might be glad to still be alive, lol. Your captures of the dragon fly and of the ducks are heart warming - an excellent post - many thanks from All Seasons! Have an inspiring rest of the week, Jesh

  30. Marvelous photos! I love the owl. Glad you can walk farther now.

  31. (In case my first comment didn't make it) You always have a great deal of beauty to see on your blog! Barn owls have become New Zealand residents as some hitched a ride on a plane and made themselves at home here!
    The dead tree looks like the result of our introduced possums who eat the native tree leaves and only leave the trunk :(
    I am glad to hear that you are getting around better!

    Your link at 'My Corner of the World' is greatly appreciated!! I'm glad to see you this week!


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