For the Love of Owls
Photography by Jim Flowers | Eric Gerber | Larry Hitchens Jim Flowers | E-Mail | Posted 03-31-2011
Short-eared Owl - Jim Flowers
"For the love of Owls" ... I've been fascinated by owls since my childhood when I'd spend summers and the Christmas holidays on my grandparents farm in rural Louisiana. Evenings were usually spent on their front porch. There I would listen to the hoots and chuckles of the Barred Owl in the nearby swamp on balmy summer nights or the romantic messages of a Great Horned Owl pair high in the surrounding pines during their mid winter courtship. My interest and now a passion in photographing these birds began with the meeting of a fellow photographer Larry Hitchens from Easton Maryland while visiting the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge during their Eagle Festival. Larry was one of several photographers displaying their work during the event. His large print of a Great Horned Owl in a pine tree taken within the refuge drew my attention and spurred a conversation that has now become a long lasting friendship and sharing of photographic interest. Larry had a list of "secret owl spots" to share and we spent our weekends exploring these locations as I learned how to find different species by their habitat. A few months later and during another outing we met photographer Eric Gerber from Baltimore Maryland. Since our introductions, we have become the "Three Amigos" and hardly a weekend goes by that we are not all together enjoying our craft and the gift of nature. We photograph many of the avian species, but always manage to find a time in the day to look for Owls.
Here you will find a collection of images captured over the past few years by the three of us and I will include a biological narrative on each species as well as a little story telling. We're always seeking different and better images of the species we have as well as those we are still pursuing. So explore and enjoy the following pages of this article. Use the "< Previous Page" and "Next Page >" links at the top and bottom of the article for your navigation.
Barred Owl (Strix varia)
Barred Owl (Hoot Owl) - Jim Flowers
"Who cooks for you" followed by "Who cooks for you all" is the all so familiar call of the Barred Owl (also known as the Hoot Owl). My first experience of photographing this species was while visiting the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge along the upper Delaware Bay near the town of Smyrna, Delaware. I found the owl perched on a snag in a swampy area near one of the more remote pools on the refuge. I was then introduced to more areas by Larry in Dorchester County, on Maryland's eastern shore, near the Blackwater Refuge. Together we were able to capture countless images of this magnificent creature. Over the past three years I have located, photographed and studied six different pairs near my home in south-central Pennsylvania with the female of one of the pairs holding a special relationship with her photographer. I have given her the name "Sassy" due to her constant taunts and chuckles during our visits.
Finding the Barred Owl is not difficult if you know where to look. In my area of the Mid-Atlantic, I will target creek bottoms with heavy brush and lots of large, old and hollow hardwood trees or blow-downs that provide safe nesting locations. Coastal and inland swamps are very productive as well. A little farther south, Cypress swamps are prime habitats.
Barred Owl - Jim Flowers
Barred Owl Biology
The Barred Owl is a medium sized owl with an average length of 16-25 inches and an average wing-span of 38-50 inches. It weighs on average between 18 and 38 ounces. The female is slightly larger than the male.
Primarily a nocturnal hunter, the Barred Owl will hunt late during the day or earlier on dark cloudy overcast days during the nesting season. Their primary food source consists of meadow voles which are its main prey, followed by shrews and deer mice. However, Barred Owls are opportunistic feeders and will prey upon other small mammals, birds, amphibians and fish.
Barred Owls will call year-round but their courtships begin in February with breeding occurring between March and August. Barred Owls normally nest in cavities but will also use abandoned Hawk, Squirrel, or Crow nests. The female will lay between 2-4 eggs and are "single brood". However due to the long breeding season the female may lay another replacement clutch (brood) if the first is damaged or lost. The incubation period is usually 28 to 33 days and the young will fledge after 35 to 40 days. Parents care for the young for at least 4 months, much longer than most other Owls.
Barred Owls prefer moist forests, swamps and woodland areas next to waterways. Other than man, the Great Horned Owl is their only natural enemy. The Barred Owl is widespread across most of the eastern United States from Florida to southern Canada.