Raptors at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Great Horned Owl
Visitors can view the flights from a central viewing area, right next to dead trees (snags) where the birds land, or from an elevated stand at the Cat Canyon exhibit. The critter to the right is a Great Horned Owl, and flew at 10 am. I was standing in the central viewing area, right next to the snag, and if I had any photographic challenges, it was being too close, and not remembering to zoom out. The "horns" are feather tufts of unclear use, and move easily in the wind. For more see the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.
Great horned owl. The owls eyes are fixed in the skull, and cannot move as ours do. Therefore the owl moves its head when it want to move its eyes, easy to observe at this close distance. To better see prey and predators, the head can rotate 270 degrees.
Also flying at 10am was the Prairie Falcon. In the photo above the bird has landed on a snag and is grabbing the meat used as the reward for landing. The shot below is after he had gulped it down, and it looking for new feeding opportunities. For more details, see Cornell Lab of Ornithology
The afternoon flights included a Barn Owl, apparently held for the afternoon show because one of its predators is the Great Horned Owl. You think you have tough Thanksgivings, image the two of them at the same table! I shot the afternoon session from the Cat Canyon overlook, to try to get birds in flight. Focus is a big issue in free flight, as well as distance. This was one of two photos with reasonable focus and detail. Note how big the head appears - the skull in fact is narrow with large eye sockets, and the mass we see is feathers to train sound to the ears. See this description on the Museum website.
Barn Owl landing. Usually hunts at night in complete darkness. Asymmetric ear openings allow it to triangulate to find prey in the darkness, often mice.
Barn Owl examining its "prey."
View of the mountains to the south of the Museum. They offer memberships with lots of great perks, including free coffee!
Henry Johnson, photographer and author of this site. For more detail, see About