Rickubis Bird Page #8: Owls and Falcons!
This page was born 04/17/2015.  Rickubis designed it.  (such as it is.) Last update:  5/6/2017
Images and contents on this page copyright 2002-2017 Richard M. Dashnau

Here are my other Brazos Bend and/or critter pages:
 ----------------------------------------------------------------                  OR,  FOR OTHER ANIMALS:
Alligators at Brazos Bend State Park Introduction             Critters at Brazos Bend State Park Page 1
Snakes-nonvenomous 1------------------------------------------- Critters at Brazos Bend State Park Page 3
Snakes-nonvenomous 2-------------------------------------------------Insects, non-toxic
Snakes-nonvenomous 3------------------------------------------------Spiders
Snakes-venomous------------------------------------------------------Mammals
Birds-Waders Hawks & Eagles-Anhingas & Comorants - -------Lizards!--Turtles!
 Grebes -Herons  Bitterns  Pelicans
Vultures    Misc. Birds

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Welcome to Brazos Bend State Park. That's me on the trail. One of the most popular reasons for people to visit BBSP is to see the birds. Although *I* started going to the park mainly for the alligators, one cannot be there for long without learning to enjoy the birds. Over the years, I've captured a few pictures and video clips of them, and here they are. I've collected all my shots of raptors onto this page.

04/16/2017    Easter Sunday is usually busy at Brazos Bend State Park. So, I usually bring my bicycle to allow me to cover more of the trails. Today I rode about 16 miles,
repeating loops over the Elm Lake, Spillway, Pilant Slough, Live Oak, and 40 Acre Lake trails. I was riding West on the Spillway Trail when a couple of park visitors called my
attention to a Barred Owl in a tree above the trail. There was an adult in one tree, and there was a juvenile owl in another tree. I stopped and watched for a while. The visitors
told me that the adult had had a crawfish and they thought it would try to feed the young owl. I didn't see the crawfish, and just got one picture of the adult. The young owl
hopped from branch to branch, and then took a short, risky flight to another tree (I caught this with video). The adult flew off, and the young owl-apparently exhausted-laid
forward and rested on the branch.

   

I returned about an hour later, and the young owl was still where I'd left it. But,tt stood up, and began grooming itself, then stood still. I rode on, and didn't see it again. This video shows the
owl's short flight, and then grooming itself an hour later. It appears to be removing the fluffy downy coverning to uncover the feathers underneath. According to the Audubon website
(http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/barred-owl ) young Barred Owls take their first flight at about 6 weeks old. 

   
   

March 29, 2015-- The Great Horned Owl had been in the nest (which it had taken from a family of Hawks) for some weeks, but the Owlet was first seen March 7th. Today I got my *best* view of the 3-week-old baby. What a fuzzy critter! It almost looks like a little-beaked bird is peeking out of a white, furry sack. I've heard some people refer to the chick as an "owlet".  Why isn't this pronounced "ow-LAY"--to rhyme with chalet, fillet, or valet? Maybe some day it will be. According to the Audubon Field Guide website (http://www.audubon.org/field-guide), young Great Horned owls may learn to fly at 9-10 weeks old.
As cute as the young one seems to be, the adult Owl showed it's predatory nature. I'd heard that it had carried prey up to the nesting site, but I didn't think it would still have it by the time I got back. But, when I arrived, the Owl was still working at its catch. I quickly shot some pictures and a short video clip before the Owl finished. I decided to hurry and set up my tripod and spotting scope to share the sight with the park visitors who were nearby--so I didn't get much video. The images here are still photos, and a few frame grabs from the very shaky video.  Still, even the short bit I caught was a interesting.  There have been some observations by some of the folks with big lenses regarding either parasites (mites?) and/or redness on the eyelids. I could even see it on a few frames of the video clip. Has anyone made a determination on this condition? The adult didn't seem to be impaired during the brief time that I watched it.
Here's a clip that I made from the original video. I've slowed it down about 7 times.  Click the link to see it--Owl 03292015.wmv 


 
     
            BABY OWL--OR OWLET                    PULLING THE MEAT OFF THE BONE           GRABBING ANOTHER BEAKFUL                       WIDE-EYED LOOK
The Common Gallinule, or Moorhen, or Gallinula chloropus--according to my Sibley Guide to Birds 1st Edition--has "long greenish legs" and long, bare toes. The Purple Gallinule, Porphyrio martinica, (which probably aren't here yet) have similar toes, but "bright yellow" legs. And the American Coot, Fulica americana,  has lobed toes. Since the feathers appear to be black, and the legs green with long toes, I think the carcass was a Moorhen. I've attached a picture of each of these three for comparison with the feathers and the cropped close view of the foot.
 
     
            THE FOOT OF THE FOOD                  PURPLE GALLINULE                                                AMERICAN COOT                      COMMON GALLINULE (MOORHEN)
While all the excitement with the Owls and the visitors was occurring, one of the park visitors (a first-timer) asked me if I could hear a woodpecker working. I told him I had, and I had been looking around for it. The tapping seemed to be coming from a dead tree about 15 feet away, and I began searching more intently for the woodpecker. I slowly walked around the tree, and judging from what I heard, I should have been looking right AT the bird. So...the woodpecker was invisible....or..."It must be making a nest! The woodpecker must be *inside* the tree!", I told the visitor. And, just a few minutes later, the bird was found--working at a hole in the tree. I shot a quick video of the woodpecker--this appears to be a Downy Woodpecker, before trying to show visitors *this* one as well. The attached four images of the woodpecker show it going into the hole.
       

February 11-12, 2012--Doris Mager!!  Doris Mager, founder of S.O.A.R. (Save Our American Raptors) was out at Brazos Bend State Park again. I try to attend her program at least once every time she comes by. This time, I sat in for 3 of them. One on Saturday (I wasn't working) and two on Sunday. They were held in the Dining Hall. One of the visitors at the park Saturday emailed me some pictures and a video clip. The pictures show below, and the video clip is here (3.8 mb wmv) or here (4.3 mb flv). In the clip, I walk to the end of the  aisle, then release E.T. the Great Horned Owl to fly to the front.  Doris has been working with Eagles and raptors for over 30 years, and has all kinds of interesting stories and facts to share. It is due to the efforts of people like Doris that we can go out and see wild Bald Eagles fly over our heads (if we are lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time). But, there was a time not that long ago that everyone thought all of our Eagles would be gone. I'm always happy to see Doris!  The fifth picture below shows Doris as she is talking about the Crested Caracara--while holding Cara the Caracara.

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                      DORIS GIVES ME E.T.                                                       RICK AND E.T.                                                               E.T WATCHES US.

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          THE DINING HALL IN E.T.'S EYE.                           DORIS MAGER AND CARA

02/14/2010  BBSP had a visit from Doris Mager of S.O.A.R. (Save Our American Raptors). Her purpose is to give these programs to expose people first-hand to these magnificent creatures. It is always a pleasure and a great thrill to see her program. It was also great to talk to her again (and I got hugged!). And, of course, my big thrill was being able to have Cara the Crested Caracara fly to me. I love that bird!  The programs were held inside this year, so her birds could fly in safety.

It is illegal to posses any raptors (or any parts of raptors--including feathers) without lots of permits and permissions. Doris has these permits to allow her to have these birds.  The birds Doris has cannot ever be released--for various physiological or behavioral reasons. They have come into her possession because of misadventures in the birds' lives--from being stolen from a nest and imprinted, to being injured by cars or gunfire. The birds have been with her for years, and have been shown to, and handled by, hundreds--if not thousands--of people. The birds would not be demonstrated in the manner that they are if they were in danger of harm, or if there was great risk to anyone.  So, keep that in mind when watching any of her programs, or looking at my videos and photos.

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                DORIS MAGER                                        E.T. FLIES IN THE DINING HALL!       video clip shot at high speed (wmv 3.0 mb)
Above left, Doris Mager talking about talons. During the program, E.T. the Great Horned Owl flew to his perch. I shot this video from inside the kitchen. The lighting in the Dining Hall is really difficult, with electric lights and brightness coming from the windows. So, I had to do what I could with it. Here it is, shot at 210 fps. Although the Owl flying is wonderful, the expressions of wonder in the audience are great, too! The second image above is a frame from the video.

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                         CARA LANDS ON MY ARM                      TURNING TOWARDS THE CAMERA                      SCRATCHING CARA'S HEAD   
                             
video clip shot at high speed (wmv 18.5 mb)
The images above are from another video shot with my camera, after I set it up and gave it to David. (Thanks David!)
Cara flew a bit prematurely (I hadn't called her yet). She flew a bit high, and I figured she needed a destination fast--so I called her as she flew, slapped the gauntlet, and raised my arm. I knew the arm was not horizontal, but I wanted her attention. When she landed, I quickly adjusted the position of my arm *with* her weight when she landed, and---well, the video shows that it worked. I called her as I had learned, and raised my arm. It is supposed to be held horizontal, but I raised it higher, and called her attention to it. She landed on it, and I was able to shift body and arm position to keep her weight and balance stable. Her smooth turn along with mine in the video shows this. It all happened in seconds.  I know she likes her head being scratched. Even so, in the video you can see how I paused slightly (longer in slow motion (00:49)) as I brought my free hand towards her to judge her reaction. When I saw her allow the hand, I scratched her head. I turned and realized my arm might block her from view of the audience, so I moved my hand away. While I looked to see where the cameras were so I could turn her to best exposure, I noted her movement from the corner of my eye, and focused on her again (1:55 -1:59). I noted her presenting the top of her head, once again paused to see reaction to my hand (this time she actually pulled at it with her beak :-)) and I scratched her some more.
I couldn't resist. My huge grin came directly from the feeling the brief communication with this magnificent bird gave me. After all, she flew to me, and then she invited me to touch her. Would I do anything like this with a wild raptor? Of course not.

02/08/2009--
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-------------------------                              RICKUBISCAM 02/08/09
I had no luck spotting any Otters. However, we were also visited again by Doris Mager, the Eagle Lady, that weekend. I sat in on(and helped a little with) her program.  I shot pictures of ET the Great Horned Owl (ET for Extra Terrific); and Cara, the Crested Caracara (see the two pictures below). And, I got to handle the Caracara again! How cool is THAT?! One of the park volunteers followed my directions, and with my camera, took some video footage while I had the bird. (thanks Diane).  To see the edited video, click  here (wmv 11.6 mb).   The old RICKUBISCAM shot above is a frame grab from the video. I've mentioned Doris before on my pages. To see some pictures and/or videos of my previous mettings with her traveling companions, look further down on this page.
Being able to talke to Doris and being close to the birds helped take the sting out of missing the cool Otter sighting.

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                                          ET the Great Horned Owl!                                                                Cara the Crested Caracara


02/10/2008  Brazos Bend State Park was lucky to have Doris Mager, creator of S.O.A.R. (Save Our American Raptors) return for the weekend, starting Friday. I was able to attend her last program, at about 4:00pm. I was also able to help, and once again I got to handle Kara the Caracara for a while, and then I was able to help a bit with the Great Horned Owl. I was able to have someone shoot a short video of the Caracara flying to me, and then David shot one of me with the Great Horned Owl.  Doris is the one describing E.T. the Owl in the video clip. These birds are fantastic when I get to see them fly overhead, or in a tree, but there is NOTHING like being able to look one in the eyes as it is perched on your arm!  You can look on my page here to see images from Doris' visit last year (look for the entry marked 2/11/2007).  It's days like this that make it really worthwhile to be a park volunteer!
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                                 RICK AND CARACARA 02/10/08                         RICK AND GREAT HORNED OWL 02/10/08
                                Rick and Caracara clip (wmv 1.6 mb)                             Rick and Owl clip (wmv 5.9 mb)

02/11/2007---This weekend BBSP was visited by Doris Mager, founder of S.O.A.R. (Save Our American Raptors). She brought 3 live raptors with her; a Great Horned Owl, an American Kestrel, and a Crested Caracara. The image below right shows me with the Crested Caracara. Live! On my arm! Ever since I saw my first wild Caracaras a few years ago, I've wanted to get a closer look at one, but haven't been able to. I've seen them on Galveston Island, in fields on the way to Brazos Bend State Park (BBSP), and even northeast of Houston.
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-----                  --DORIS IN FRONT, ME IN BACK ----                ------------------- RICK AND KESTREL-------------                      ---------------- RICK AND CARACARA
------------------------------------------------------------------VIDEO CLIP (3108 KB WMV)
I also got to "demonstrate" the American Kestrel while Doris talked about it (see DORIS IN FRONT, and RICK AND KESTREL, above; both images from the video clip). (By the way, watch the video clip linked above, and you'll see and hear Doris.) But, this or the Owl didn't compare, in my eyes, to being able to be so close to the Caracara.  Not only could I see it up close, but I got to call it to me, and scratch its head. It was SO COOL!  The images below are frames from a video clip that was shot by Chuck  with my camera. Thanks, Chuck!  By the way, we all had our caps backwards during the program because the Owl didn't like the bills pointed towards it.
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-----VIDEO CLIP (779 KB WMV)-----VIDEO CLIP slow motion no sound (2,550 KB WMV) 

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According to my Sibley's Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America, on page 112, the Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway) is about 23 inches long, has a wingspan of 49 inches, and weighs 2.2 lb. It feeds mostly on carrion, but will take small reptiles and mammals. It searches for food by flying low early in the day to find carrion before the vultures are flying.  I've seen other articles on the internet that refer to the Crested Caracara as "Polyborus plancus", while my copy of The Encyclopedia of North American Birds calls it "Caracara plancus".  This bird is also called the "Mexican Eagle" and appears on the flag of Mexico. It was so great for Doris to pay us a visit!  It's very important to remember that these birds are not able to be released into the wild ever again, because they would not survive. This was because of direct human intervention into their lives.  Although their situation is not the best, they can at least be used to educate people about the problems our mighty raptors have to face.  It would be a terrible, terrible waste to lose any of these birds.
Doris is a very unique individual, and at over 80 years old, is quite amazing in her own right.  To see more about Doris, you can go here, here, and here. Doris gave programs Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I went to the last one on Sunday, and I'm so glad I did.

03/27/2006---When I drove into BBSP, I'd just gone past the entrance, when I saw someone taking pictures at something at the tree line.  It was a young Great Horned Owl!! It was also on the ground, hiding among the plants. Even though it was young, it was quite large. While I watched, a single crow started trying to harass it. I moved back, but close enough to be able to shoot some video--but I wanted to see what the crow would do. The crow scolded the owl for a little while, then eventually flew away. I left also, thinking that one of the owl's parents would be around anyway. I got to see the young owl's threat display--which is quite arresting.  Even though I saw this in 2006, I haven't posted this online until today (4/16/2015). Two images below show the young owl on the ground, and a short video of the owl under cover, with some crow harrasment, can be seen at these links   young owl and crow (mp4)  ;  young owl and crow (wmv)
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-----                 BACK OFF--I'M BIG AND MEAN! ----                ------------- OWL KEEPING ITS EYES ON ME.-------

March 14, 2004  The image below (THE LEE OF THE STONE) shows an adult Great Horned Owl. A pair of these beautiful birds had nested in the park some weeks ago. I finally got over to see them Sunday, the 14th. I'm kicking myself for not getting over there sooner, because it was raining most of the day Sunday. I tried to take some pictures, but my lenses kept fogging up. But, I was able to salvage the shot below for the RICKUBISCAM. The caption I used for that picture, "the lee of the stone", is from the animated movie The Secret of NIMH, and is where the "Great Owl" tells Mrs. Brisby (a mouse) to move her house.

Once again, I'm impressed by the diversity of animals one can see at Brazos Bend State Park. Here are two more pictures of the adult owl (see BEAUTIFUL, and STILL BEAUTIFUL, below).  I was disappointed in my pictures, so I went back to the park Monday (March 15). I had already had the day off, since I was planning on filming alligator mating activity (but because of the rain, I didn't try). The day was clearer, but the adult owl wasn't in a clear spot for me to catch her. I was able to catch a picture of one the the young owls, though, as it looked down at me from the tree (see ARE YOU FOOD?, below). By the way, the two young owls had flown to the next tree, when the day before all three were in the same tree.
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            THE LEE OF THE STONE                                   BEAUTIFUL!                                        STILL BEAUTIFUL!                                    ARE YOU FOOD?

June 02, 2003
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     CRESTED CARACARA                   WHAT'S IT EATING?           I'M EATING! GET LOST.
On the way to the park this morning, I saw this Crested Caracara eating in one of the fields along FM762.  Although I'm not a birder, I can't help but admire the beauty of raptors, and raptor-like birds.  Seeing one of these fine animals close enough to take *any* kind of picture is a treat.  I'd gone past it, and decided to turn around to get a better look. Since I remained in the car, so I wouldn't scare it off, I was in an awkward position for taking pictures. It appeared to be eating something larger than a mouse, that appeared stiff on the outside (perhaps a turtle or small armadillo?). See the three pictures CRESTED CARACARA, WHAT'S IT EATING?, and I'M EATING, above. I also have a short video clip (somewhat shaky because I was in the car and without tripod). Click the link to see it. (cara1.flv 1160 kb),

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        AMERICAN KESTREL
March 30, 2003  Above is a  picture of the American Kestrel that we have at the park. Isn't it beautiful? This is a captive bird, obtained from a rehabilitator only after the correct permits had been applied for and granted (and this is a state organization!).  This Kestrel's wing was severely damaged some time (years) ago by contact with a power line, rendering the Kestrel unable to fly ever again. This is the only reason that this fine animal can be legally kept at all.  So, DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!

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