Introducing the Great: Great Horned Owl!


Hey everyone! Happy Thursday to all! To celebrate this momentous day of the week, I have a very special post!

I’ve found a great horned owl feather!! 😀

great horned owl, nature

Great horned owl feather on top of my nature binder.

I think this is super awesome, (and I think you guys do as well) but besides that fact, this means even more to me than what you guys would think. In case you are a specifications person, the length of the feather is 11 inches. In comparison to a coke bottle, you get how large it really is…DSC00035

I have to say, it was very interesting looking back seeing how the second I identified the feather how much new information I now knew about my woods. Let me show you what I mean…

great horned owl

After researching bird of prey feathers, I came to the conclusion that it was a hawk feather. I kept researching, thinking it was maybe a Cooper’s hawk feather, but after awhile, I became unsure if I was researching the right bird. I decided to research owls next. I was looking at pictures, pointing out how the feathers looked, until all of a sudden, I was looking at the feather I now owned. “Oh my gosh!!” I audibly said. After I said that I had many thoughts going through my head. Among these were: this is awesome, holy crap, that means there are mice in my woods, oh my gosh, and others…

After I calmed down, I went through a mental checklist of what this meant. I’ll show you this checklist that I’ve been trying to complete.

  1. Find direct evidence of mice in my woods.
  2. Find direct evidence of owls in my woods.
  3. Find evidence of mice homes.
  4. Find owl pellets indicating where the owl lives/territory boundaries.

great horned owl

Now, the evidence of mice in my checklist is probably a little misleading to you since I’m talking about great horned owls. However, above I showed you my mental checklist. And I have to say, it was interesting to see how my mind thought after I identified the feather. And the reason I find it interesting, is because I can check off a lot of those points above. Since I have direct proof that great horned owls exist in my woods, that means they have to eat something.  Here is some information that I have copied from All About Birds.org, all credit of this quote to them.

“Great Horned Owls have the most diverse diet of all North American raptors. Their prey range in size from tiny rodents and scorpions to hares, skunks, geese, and raptors. They eat mostly mammals and birds—especially rabbits, hares, mice, and American Coots, but also many other species including voles, moles, shrews, rats, gophers, chipmunks, squirrels, woodchucks, marmots, prairie dogs, bats, skunks, house cats, porcupines, ducks, loons, mergansers, grebes, rails, owls, hawks, crows, ravens, doves, and starlings. They supplement their diet with reptiles, insects, fish, invertebrates, and sometimes carrion. Although they are usually nocturnal hunters, Great Horned Owls sometimes hunt in broad daylight. After spotting their prey from a perch, they pursue it on the wing over woodland edges, meadows, wetlands, open water, or other habitats. They may walk along the ground to stalk small prey around bushes or other obstacles.”

great horned owl

I have seen of that list rabbits, hares, chipmunks, squirrels, bats, cats, crows, and ravens, so there should be plenty for the owl to eat 🙂 .To sum that quote up, I now have indirect evidence of mice and voles in my woods. The reason I know this is because, besides the feather, I also have several sightings in the neighborhood of foxes and coyotes. Foxes and coyotes will also prey upon mice and voles. And I do have the types of biomes/environments that would be able to support mice and voles, so there is a lot of indirect evidence of mice in my woods. Along with that, upon analyzing some (coyote I believe…) scat I came upon one day, I found an extremely small skull next to protruding out of the scat. I didn’t pick it up for obvious reasons, but I think it may have possibly been a mouse skull.

great horned owl

So, after finding the feather, after doing so much animal research, I thought it was cool how my head went, “Oh, I found this feather. That means there’s a healthy mice population, which also confirms my suspicions about foxes in my woods. This also means there are probably several snakes in our woods.” So I just wanted to share that with y’all! This may just be my own conclusion, but the way I thought through that is probably how a biologist would think after finding new evidence of a species he’s been researching. Since I’m in high school I’ve been thinking lately about job opportunities in the future. Field biologist has crossed my mind several times, but I would need to do a lot more research on the job before I came to any conclusions.

All credit goes to Wikipedia, Stephen Oach’s Photography, and the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum for the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th pictures.

Keep calm and track on!

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Stubborn Turtles and Curious Bears! (Plus Some Other Stuff)

Hey guys! I hope y’all haven’t gotten too impatient with me, but *bear* with me, cause I’ve finished! This is gonna be a great post so let’s get going!
First off, can you find the track in the picture? If so, then let’s see if you can recognize what track this is. This is an intermediate level track to identify. There is a poll below so I will let you vote on what you think it is, then in a day or two I will reveal the answer.

Tracks

Now let’s get to the featured animal since we’re in the mood to reveal some mysteries! I had a poll with many animals that could’ve been featured in this post. But only one made it. The story begins at Vogel State Park in Dahlonega, Georgia. I was camping with my brother and my dad, but I was playing UNO! at another campsite when this incident happened :D.

It was our first night up in the mountains camping and my dad was hanging out by the campfire with some friends. At about 10:30 at night only 50 feet from the campfire, my dad heard a noise. It was the noise of something extremely large, but not human. It stirred up the leaves and the campfire suddenly flared up, casting shadows upon the trees and slowly revealing the large being. Immediately picking up the flashlight, my dad shined it upon the giant beast to reveal a mother black bear and 2 of her cubs! Looking at my dad and his friends, the bear pondered what these people were doing up in the high clutches of the mountain. It then gave a grin and continued traversing through the landscape. I was not there to take a picture, but I figured that I could at least share the story :). Either way, here’s a picture of a black bear, all credit to http://bchuntingblog.com/  for the picture:

Black bear, blog

A Black bear.

While I was exploring in my woods one day I was headed back home and decided to take a detour through the (not so) Dead Marshes. As I kindly tramped along through the meadow grass untroubled by the time and bugs, I came across a turtle shell. The first thought that came to my mind was: “OOH, A TURTLE SHELL!!! Maybe there will be a turtle, or maybe if there isn’t one I can take the shell home and make it into a pouch!” So I went to take a peek, excited like a little boy on Christmas morning, and discovered a turtle inside. Quickly looking at the head before the turtle tried to run away from me, I realized it was an Eastern box turtle.

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An Eastern box turtle. Notice the interesting shell pattern; no two patterns are the same.

After I snapped that picture, it immediately began bounding away eager to get back to its nap. Slowly realizing this could possibly be a nesting ground, I stopped the unaware tramping I had been doing and began taking each step slowly and carefully. Funny enough, I only had to take two steps to find a baby turtle. I do only have 3 free gigabytes of media uploading memory so I will not post a picture of that one, besides the fact that I couldn’t get a good one, but know that it was only about half the size of the one above. However, instead of letting me pick it up and get a good picture, the baby was stubborn and went 2x the speed of the one above and began to dig a small burrow under the grass to hide under.

As I was exploring the area I call the Desert (pretty much nothing but dry dirt, dust, some sand, more dust and dead, black trees) I found a really cool dragonfly!

A twelve-spotted skimmer.

A female twelve-spotted skimmer.

After doing some research, I have concluded that this is a female twelve-spotted skimmer. I found it resting on a wildflower and just couldn’t help not taking a picture! This is a really cool bug and if you get the chance to observe one in the wild, I would by all means spend a few minutes watching it.

One of my favorite things to do in my free time is watch birds! They are fascinating creatures, always extremely quick and alert, never hesitant to fly away at a moment’s notice. One of my favorite birds are the Carolina chickadee. They are one of the bravest of birds, flying in the harshest of rains and always looking for someone to play with or something to do. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen very many lately, so I decided to get a cardinal instead.

A female red cardinal. Ironically, the female red cardinal is actually brown with an orange beak.

A female red cardinal. Ironically, the female red cardinal is actually brown with an orange beak.

Finally, to close the post, I have one more track for y’all to figure out! This is also an intermediate level track to distinguish if you know what to look for. If you guys have been paying attention to some of the tracking tips I have been giving you guys, then you should probably be able to solve this. It shouldn’t be too hard. Here’s a tip: DON’T ponder over the obvious. Figure out what you think the track in the top could be and then move on. Look at what isn’t there (and should or could be there), and figure out what you can from what you know or assume. Be a detective. Also, this track is probably only about 3 weeks old. Just FYI.

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A deer or a human boot. That leaves a very narrow margin for error. Two choices. One answer. Let’s see if your tracking knowledge has grown 🙂

Thanks guys, and I hope y’all are enjoying this! I think this is a new and exciting post, so I really hope you guys think so too! Be prepared for the answers to both polls in a day or two.

Keep calm and track on!

P. S. By the way, did you notice the faint shoeprint from four weeks ago in the bottom right hand corner of the picture? I did that 🙂

My Woods!

I was out in the woods exploring and I thought I should “show” you what they’re like. It’s always a lot of fun out there :).

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One section of my woods. It puzzles me why so many pines fell.

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My creek.

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A popular animal drinking spot. I also tend to find a lot of tiny frogs here.

It seems to literally rain leaves. The forest floor is covered with them.

It seems to literally rain leaves. The forest floor is covered with them.

The Dead Marshes.

I used to call this the Dead Marshes. Grass is beginning to grow so it looks like I gotta find a new name for it 😉

The thorns that literally try to rip you into shreds.

The thorns that literally try to rip you into shreds..

So that's my woods!

So that’s my woods!

So that’s my woods! I figured if I’m gonna be posting about things in my woods, I should at least give you a general idea of what they’re like. I will post a follow up to this post in the next couple of days. There’s gonna be lots of tracks and I’ll explain to you as much as I can about them! I hope you like my blog so far, and I’ll keep on posting!

Keep calm and keep tracking!