Friday, May 23, 2008

Home On The Range

Seems like lately that I find myself prowling around old homesteads that I come upon while out and about in southern Alberta. Actually they are worth the stop when you see one beside the road you are travelling on. I always wonder who lived in the houses that I find. I feel that it is important to recognize our past and the people who built the foundations for our life today. Many of these properties will soon disappear, either by natural decay or flattened by man in the interest of development. Some are already gone. It's sad to see these abandoned houses I find while travelling the backroads of Southern Alberta slowly falling apart. I have found that the old houses that I come upon are not entirely abandoned. No I don't mean that they have ghosts living in them, although the thought as crossed my mind at one time or another with the wind creating interesting sound effects as I prowl around a old house. When I say that they are not entirely abandoned is the fact that I find these old houses have become home to a wide variety of wildlife that has taken up residence. Just lately I found a Great Horned Owls nest in the windbreak that surrounded the property. I was a little to close and the male attempted to lead me away from the nest and at one point entered the old house where it perched on a window sill for a time. While exploring the old buildings that were part of this old homestead, I was seeing young Jack-rabbits in abundance and based on my observations and the photo that I shot of the young Jack-rabbit in my photo, they would have been born in the last month. I found them quite comical to watch as they lazed about near the house and on several occasions, would make a tour through the house from one side to the other side. I also got a brief glimpse of a weasel but no photos as he disappeared under the house. Judging by abundance of gophers, he was not going to go hungry any time soon.
Nearby I had noticed a number of nesting box's running along a fence line and as I drove along I was keeping a eye out for Mountain Blue birds. Most of the boxes had Tree Swallows in them but I finally spotted one nesting box with Mountain Blue birds. I knew that I would not get any photos if I got out of my truck so I pulled in reasonably close with the nesting box out my window allowing me to get the photos that I wanted.
Once finished shooting photos of the Mountain Bluebirds, I drove down to a abandoned homestead near Mossleigh where about two months ago I had noticed a Great Horned Owls nest in the windbreak surrounding the property. At that time the female GHO was sitting on the eggs. By now I knew that the eggs would have hatched and owlets would be standing on the nest looking like downy covered bowling pins with eyes.
I was not disappointed upon my arrival and pulled over on the nearby road where I made a quick check on the nest with my binoculars. Yep, I could see owlets from a 100 meters away. Pulling into a approach, I set up my equipment and made the approach to the nest. The owlets were alone in the nest with no sign of the male and female GHO. I assumed they were possibly out hunting for mice or gophers to feed the owlets who would be always hungry.
Normally, owls lay their eggs in February and March. These owlet's eggs must have been laid back in March and hatched sometime in April. Owlets don't fly until they are nine or 10 weeks old.
When fully grown, Great Horned Owls can have wingspans up to 57 inches and weigh 5½ pounds. I also have learned that Great Horned Owls do not move or change locations, as I had seen another pair of Great Horned Owls in Fish Creek Park that nest in the same tree each year but the location of the nest in the tree makes it difficult to shoot photos. I was hoping for more owlets however-two is all there is in this nest and a nearby nest also has two owlets as well. Just as I was leaving the location of the nest, the female landed in a tree nearby and after I reached my truck, a look with my binoculars showed mom had joined the owlets in the nest.

The Old Place

Remember - all photos expand

No comments yet