We can count on finding Great Horned Owls on our yearly winter trip to the Merced National Wildlife Refuge but this last winter we came across two together and the scene suggested this painting.
A fellow birder and I were walking in the Santa Cruz Mountains of Central California. We had froze in a field surrounded by scrubby willow to get a view of a Wilson’s Warbler. Out of nowhere, this owl lands next to us, probably within about 6 feet. It could barely fly. I estimated that the vole was about 2/3 of the owl’s weight. The owl stared at us while we took photos. We backed off and it dropped the vole. We kept going in hopes that it retrieved its prey.
A friend showed us where to find this Whiskered Screech-Owl close to the road and out in the open. She was asleep but opened one eye to check us out.
The Whiskered Screech Owl is found over a small area of the Southwest United States. Its distribution extends down the western mountains of Mexico and into part of Central America. We heard several “tooting” during the night where we were staying in Portal, Arizona. Sometimes their toots sound like Morse code.