Northern Alberta Owl Prowl

A Photographic Essay

On May 31, 2002, Duncan and I, and a friend, Katherine Caine, had a marvellous opportunity to accompany Chuck Priestley, a University of Alberta environmental researcher, on an Owl Prowl to the north of Edmonton. He and some others had established a Saw-whet Owl Nest Box program, and were going out to band the owls that had not been previously banded. Luckily, Mom was in the nest box when we got there, and when the net was placed over the opening, she politely flew into it.
Getting Momma Saw-whet out of the Net
Getting ready to band the adult
Applying the Band

Checking her wings - the colour shows that she is a second year bird

Blowing on her tummy to show her brood patch and show that it is the female
I'm holding her - I'm really holding her!

Getting the babies out of the nest box - there were 5 of them, but the littlest was too small to band.

Close-up of Momma Saw-whet.
She was the most patient, calmest bird imaginable!
Three of the baby Saw-whet Owls waiting their turn for banding.

An ominous pose - Saw-whets sometimes poop on people in self-defense!
After finishing with the Saw-whets, we walked another half mile or so into the woods to find a staked out Great Grey Owl nest. It seems that the researchers had noticed a nesting pair of Great Greys in the neighborhood. However, when they found the male dead, seemingly having died of starvation, they were afraid that Mom and her two babies would share the same fate. So they searched for the nest and began supplying live mice to bring the little family through safely to fledging.

Preparing the mouse for the hungry (and noisy) baby

Delivering the mouse to the smaller of the two chicks

Mother and Child (by the way, this baby is about twice the size of the full grown Saw-whet Owl)

The larger, and more aggressive, chick did not like his picture being taken from close quarters!

Waiting for more mice....

A close-up portrait of the older chick
All in all, it was a bit like taking part in a National Geographic film shoot! A wonderful experience. Click on the following link to find a few larger versions of some of the Great Grey Owl pictures, or send me a note to request larger versions.