International Festival Of Owls 2016, a personal perspective

12401802_1022577734460265_8596728003132359754_o-2March 1 – 3 Prequel to Festival

I had the wonderful opportunity this year to spend a few days in Wisconsin.  Rick Schultz, a good friend of mine was and excellent “tour guide”.  Rick, his faithful companion Punky, a sweet pup and myself visited the small town of Freedom, WI.  Freedom is a perfect habitat for Snowy Owls in winter.

Snowy Owls spend their summers breeding in the Arctic, but migrate during the winter into parts of lower Canada and  northern United States.  Snowy Owls have made it into Wisconsin for the past few years and it is a real treat to be able to see them in the wild.   For the most part, Snowy Owls like to spend their winter months in areas similar to the tundra where they breed.  Areas such as agricultural fields, marshes, along beaches, harbors, expanses of ice and even airports.  The agricultural area of Freedom Wisconsin was where Rick and I photographed and observed about 6 different Snowy Owls.

Snowy owls are very easy to recognize.  Adult males are predominately white while adult females and juveniles are white with dark spotting.  They are the heaviest owl in North America weighing 4 pounds and have a wingspan of 4 feet.  They are Nocturnal (active at night) and  Crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk). During the day in Wisconsin they spend most of their time roosting out in the fields.  At about 4 P.M.  they begin to fly up to perches such as fences, road signs, and telephone poles as they prepare to hunt.


Rick and I were in awe when we happened to see a Peregrine Falcon fly in and threaten one of the Snowy’s who was trying to roost on a roof.  Here are a few pictures of the encounter.  In the end the Peregrine flew off, leaving the Snowy to continue roosting in peace once again.

On the last evening we happened to spot a young Snowy perched on a “Stop Ahead” Road sign.  One of the last Snowy’s I saw during the two-day unforgettable visit.

One more exciting event that we witnessed was a Great Horned Owl Mom on her nest and the male roosting very nearby the nesting tree.

Friday March 4th – Day 1  International Festival of Owls

I finally arrived at my favorite Inn, the Loken’s Sawmill Inn, Cedar Street, Houston MN! After unpacking my bags, I quickly made my way to the International Owl Center.  What a joy to see the live owls on display:  Uhu (the Eurasian Eagle Owl) and Ruby and Rupert (the Great Horned Owls).  I feel at home and in my element when I am at this event.  All who attend are friends who love owls and care about making the world a better place for owls.

Uhu, the amazing Eurasian Eagle Owl

Ruby and Rupert, the Great Horned Owls

After a brief visit to the Owl center I walked to the reception held at the Houston Community Center.  A great time was had by all who attended and delicious “owl themed” food was served.  At this reception I had the privilege to meet and talk with a few of the 2016 World Owl Hall of Fame winners.  I also met and reconnected with several friends that I have made over the past 4 years.


Following the reception I returned to the Center as the snow was falling.  It was a gorgeous evening in Houston. International Owl Center


Karla was thrilled with the Owl Center’s new van, the “OWLMOBILE” which the center was able to purchase with donations from supporters of the International Owl Center! License plate:  OWL CTR!



At the Owl Center visitors could vote on their favorite photo in the annual photo contest.


The above are the top 10 photos that were voted on by the visitors to the center during the Festival.  And the winners are:

#10  What are you looking at? (Short-eared Owl) by Jeff Grotte, Minnesota, USA, 1st Place

#5     Subarctic Minnesota (Great Horned Owl, subarcticus subspecies) by Jeff Grotte,    Minnesota, USA, 2nd Place

#4     African Wood Owl by Alan Jonker, South Africa. 3rd Place

Two of my photos made the top 10 and that I was quite happy about that.  Can you guess which two are mine?

There is also a coloring Contest and children from all over the world participate in this.  Below are a few of the beautiful and award winning entries.


Pictured here is the inside of the Owl Center on Friday March 4th.  Jo Severson was about to present a live owl program as the audience waited with anticipation!


This evening at 7 P.M. there was a Live Owl Program at the Houston High School by the Illinois Raptor Center: Nest-Cues (renesting  young owls).  Here are a few pictures from this wonderful and educational program featuring Eastern Screech-Owls, a Barn Owl, and Barred Owls. Illinois Raptor Center


Friday evening immediately after the Live Owl program, I went on an Adult-Only Owl prowl for 2 hours.  It was extremely fun and educational. It was led by David H. Johnson, Director of the  Global Owl Project .

Saturday March 5 – Day 2 International Festival of Owls

Saturday morning I always look forward to the “Owl face” Pancake Breakfast held at the local Lutheran Church.   It was delicious as usual and a great way to begin day 2 of our festival.

The Illinois Raptor Center presented another excellent program Saturday morning entitled: “Rescue, Research, Rehab and Technology.  This live Owl program featured Snowy Owls and Great Horned Owls.

Also on Saturday afternoon was  a wonderful program by Ronald van Harxen and Pascal Stroeken from the Netherlands:   The Little Owl: A Great Owl to Work On , and a program by Jim Duncan “25 years of Citizen Science Nocturnal Owl Surveys”.

The annual Kid’s Hooting Contest was a big success as usual and very entertaining!

SATURDAY EVENING – Banquet and World Hall of Fame Award Presentations held at the Four Seasons in Caledonia.

This is the evening I always look forward to when the World Hall of Fame awards are presented to people (and owls) who have made the world a better place for owls.

From the International Festival of Owls Website:

“The purpose of the World Owl Hall of Fame is to bring public recognition to the owls and humans who have done great things to make this world a better place for owls. Three types of awards are given out each year: the Lady Gray’l Award (for owls), the Champion of Owls Award (for humans), and the Special Achievement Award (for humans).” 

Click on this link for more detailed information on the winners:  2016 Award Winners

The awards themselves are handmade and very  beautiful.  The Champion of Owls Award is one of my favorites!


Ronald van Harxen and Pascal Stroeken, were presented the Special Achievement Award.  They are from the Netherlands and are the founders of the Dutch Little Owl Working Group.  They began their work in the 1980’s when they put up many nest boxes, monitored them, banded the young and recorded data.  Hein Bloem together with Ronald and Pascal founded STONE “The Dutch Little Owl Working Group”.  The goal of this group is to bring together everyone working with Little Owls in the Netherlands to create a central knowledge base for research and protection. Ronald and Pascal work directly with the public and educate land owners about habitat management.  Today, several hundred people are protecting and researching Little Owls supported by STONE.



The Lady Gray’l Award:
Dudley the Great Horned Owl, North Carolina

Dudley had a 28 year career as an educator at the Carolina Raptor Center in Huntersville, NC.  Jim Warren, the executive director of the Carolina Raptor Center worked with Dudley and accepted his award. Dudley visited prison inmates, educated thousands of people, and was featured on television and on stage with Jack Hanna.  Dudley, the Great Horned Owl made a huge impact on the world and helped raise thousands of dollars for conservation. Sadly he passed away at the age of 30.


Special Achievement Award
Friedhelm Weick, Germany

Friedhelm Weick has worked as a professional illustrator since 1965 and his most recent work “Fascinating World of Owls” features the rarest and most beautiful owls of the world.  Most biologists own a copy of his book “Owls, A Guide to the Owls of the World” and “Owls of the World” which illustrate all of the owl species in the world! He was unable to attend the festival.  Below David H. Johnson is giving us a glimpse of Friedhelm Weick’s beautiful book with Karla Bloem.



Lady Gray’l Award – Nemo, the Long Eared Owl

Jim Duncan, Director of the Wildlife Branch of Manitoba Conservation in Canada.

Nemo’s main work as an educator reached over 12,000 people and raised over $50,000 for graduate students and owl conservation efforts.  Thousands of his pellets were given to schools to dissect.  He most recently helped convince elected officials to revise the Wildlife Act in Manitoba to ban roadside feeding of wildlife, including owls.  Nemo sadly passed away in 2015.


Champion of Owls Award – Professor Pertti Saurola from Finland

Professor Pertti Saurola has dedicated over 50 years of his life to studying owls.  He has constructed hundreds of nest boxes that he mounted and monitored over the years.  He has banded over 3,000 Ural Owls and over 3,000 Tawny Owls, among thousands of other birds. He is the head of the Finnish National Center of Bird Ringing (banding) and the President of the European Union for Bird Ringing.   Pertti was the featured speaker at the banquet and presented “My Private Soap Opera: 50 Years as a spectator among Ural and Tawny Owls”  Pertti is also an extraordinary musician and after his lecture he serenaded us at the banquet with his magnificent baritone voice.

It was a very lovely evening filled with good food, wonderful company and an excellent program.

Sunday March 6th, Day 3 International Festival of Owls

Sunday was a very wonderful day, starting out with an incredible sunset.  I drove to the top of my favorite “hill” in Houston and stood in awe as the horizon moved down.


After the sunrise, I explored a little farther down the road and came across this magnificent American Bald Eagle perched in a pine tree.


I had a lovely breakfast at my dear friend Marjorie Kitchen’s home.  A wonderful time was had by all with great conversation.

Following a delicious breakfast we visited Marjorie’s goats in the barn.  It is always so fun to hold the baby goats!  It’s great to be kidding around!

The rest of the day on Sunday was very special.  There were two more live owl programs by the Illinois Raptor Center, a Hatch Day party for Alice with lots of cake, Owl nest box building, Owl pellet dissection,  and more kids activities!  Jim Warren presented an excellent program about Dudley the Great Horned Owl and other owls of the Carolina Raptor Center.

I spent more time out in the field on Sunday afternoon looking for interesting birds to photograph and had success finding a Barred Owl and a beautiful American Kestrel.


As the festival drew to an end, I was able to reflect on what a wonderful event this weekend is.  If you have never attended this, I hope someday you will get the chance!

On Sunday evening I was happy to spend time with many of the new friends that I made of the three-day event.  I want to thank Karla and Hein for their hospitality and kindness.  Without them there would not be a Festival of Owls or an International Owl Center!  The world is definitely a better place for owls because of Karla and Hein!  I am thankful to you Karla, for all you have taught me about owls and thank you for making me feel at home in the wonderful town of Houston, MN.


Thank you for taking the time to read my post and I hope to see you next year at the 2017 International Festival of Owls!





Eastern Bluebird Trail at Linvilla Orchards 2015


This past spring my husband and I began an adventure of a lifetime!  We decided to experience the joy of bluebirding!  Bluebirds are the symbol of happiness, hope and renewal and almost everyone that sees one of these beautiful birds can’t help but smile. When Steve Linvill told me about the nest boxes on the Linvill property and how they have not been monitored for a few years, I thought this would be a fun, rewarding and important  activity to pursue.  Due to the destruction of habitat, many of our native cavity-nesting birds cannot find a suitable place to lay their eggs and raise their young.  Putting up nest boxes in the proper habitat &  location can greatly help the Eastern Bluebirds and other cavity-nesting species thrive and survive.  Linvilla orchards has the perfect habitat for bluebirds: rural country, open fields, orchards, scattered trees, and low ground cover.

Scott and I began monitoring the Linvill Bluebird Trail in May of 2015.  A good friend, Walt Koenig and his group from a local church, built twelve new Bluebird boxes to replace some of the old ones that were in disrepair.  Theses boxes were placed on the trail at various locations.  We began to monitor the boxes the week of May 24th  and continued to check them weekly until the end of August.  We numbered the boxes 1 – 17 and recorded data on each individual box weekly,  throughout the summer.

“The Bluebird Society of Pennsylvania”, helped us greatly in this  endeavor.  Their mission statement is, “Sharing the joy of Bluebirds….. one nest box at a time” and they were founded in 1998.   Dr. Dean C. Rust, President of the Society, sent a wonderful book to me:  “Everything You Need to Know About Bluebirds…..and Much More” by the Bluebird Society of Pennsylvania.  Marilyn Michalski also was a great help to us.  She monitors over 40 boxes in Kimberton, Pennsylania.   She was kind enough to come and visit our trail and gave us many helpful tips as we drove through the orchards, examining each box.

I will begin by sharing with you a few of the boxes the way we found them in disrepair and then the brand new nest boxes in their new location in Linvilla Orchards. This box was unable to be salvaged and was replaced by a brand new one.

This box could not be used again and was replaced with a brand new one.

Box #2 was successfully used by Bluebirds, but will need to be repaired before next season.

This was used successfully by Bluebirds this season, but will need to be repaired before winter sets in.

Box #10 was infested with ants.  Bluebirds were unsuccessful here and this will need to be removed and replace with a new box.  Location is not the best, so it may need to be relocated.

Bluebirds tried to nest here, but were unsuccessful. It was infested by ants and not in the best location. We will need to replace this box.

Here is brand new box #12 with an adult Tree Swallow tending to his  hatchlings.


In box #12, Tree Swallows raised five young chicks that successfully fledged.

A typical weekly check took about one to two hours and was done in the early evening before dusk.   Birds in general tend to lay their eggs in the morning, so it is not a good idea to inspect the boxes at that time of day.  Bluebirds and Tree Swallows are both very tolerant of monitoring.  When we approach the box, we make some noise to let any occupant inside know of our presence.  We stand at the side of the box, away from the hole, lightly tap on the box and slowly open the door.  A nest is considered active as soon as the first egg is laid.  Bluebirds typically lay one egg a day until the clutch is complete.  Clutches can vary anywhere from 2 – 6 eggs and this depends on food supply, weather, time of year and other variables.    The female incubates the eggs and the incubation period can last 12 -18 days.  Brooding by the female is needed to keep the nestlings temperatures regulated and lasts 5 – 7 days.  If we found eggs that did not hatch, which happened at one location, we waited 4 days and then carefully removed the eggs.  We never found a dead chick, but if that happens, it must be removed right away.  Once the chicks have fledged we remove the old nest and dispose of it.  Bluebirds like clean boxes and may have 2 or even 3 clutches over the nesting season.   One of the main reasons we monitor the boxes is to to increase the population of native cavity dwelling birds and prohibit non-native House Sparrows and European Starlings from using our nest boxes.  Thus Scott and I had to learn how to identify who was living in our boxes.

We discovered Tree Swallows, Eastern Bluebirds, House Wrens (not desirable for a bluebird trail as they can and will destroy Bluebird eggs with their sharp pointy beaks), and House Sparrow (invasive species).   Scott and I learned to identify the eggs of the above species and I will share our findings with you now.

Tree Swallows initially start out with dry grasses and then they gradually line their nest with feathers. Their eggs are white and slightly smaller than a bluebird’s eggs. Clutch is 2-8 Incubation 13 – 16 days Fledge 16- 24 days. Usually 1 brood, but occasionally 2. Our Tree Swallows had only one brood each in the 2015 season.


Tree Swallow nest, lined with feathers and a clutch of 5 white eggs.

Eastern Bluebird selects fine grasses and tiny rootlets or she may make it all out of pine needles. The eggs are powder blue and are larger than Tree Swallows. Occasionally one will be white. The clutch can be from 2 – 6 eggs.


Bluebird clutch of 5 powder blue eggs.

House Wren creates her nest with sticks, feathers, dried grass, white casting of spiders.  If one of our nest boxes was filled to the brim with sticks, we knew it was a House Wren.  Their eggs are pinkish white with small reddish brown spots and their clutch is 3 – 10. Incubation 9 – 16 days, fledge 12 – 18.  They may have 1 or 2 broods.


House Wren clutch of 7 speckled eggs.


House wrens ready to fledge. Notice their sharp pointy beaks.

House Sparrow, a NON-NATIVE predator.  It is not protected by law.  If a House sparrow takes a liking to one of our boxes it will displace nesting birds by destroying eggs and killing nestlings.

House Sparrow clutch

House Sparrow eggs


House Sparrow, a non-native species. It lives on every continent and it , along with the European Starling are on of the most abundant birds in the world.


This was a dangerous situation as a House Sparrow was trying to keep the Tree Swallow (you can see it on the fence) away from her box.

At this point in my blog post I would like to share with you a few photos of our Tree Swallow families.  Five of our boxes (#3, #6, #9, #12 & #14)  were the homes for Tree Swallows and twenty young Tree Swallows successfully fledged!


Four Tree Swallow eggs in a very soft and delicately made nest lined with feathers.


Five Tree Swallow hatchlings only a few days old.


Incredible detail of the newly hatched tree swallows. Scott took these nest box photos with his cell phone as he could easily slip it into the box to quickly photograph the developing chicks.



Box #9 was one of the original boxes and four young Tree Swallows successfully fledged


Feeding time!


My husband Scott, carefully waiting until the adult leaves before he checks the development of the chicks.


Linvilla Orchards provides the perfect habitat for nest boxes.

20150607_IMG_1310_Web 20150607_IMG_1297_Web 20150523_IMG_0223_Web-2 20150531_IMG_0613_Web


It was a joy to see the fledglings fly and beg mom and dad for food.


Feeding time!

20150614_IMG_1499_Web 20150614_IMG_1497_Web 20150624_IMG_1649_Web


It is VERY important to clean out the box (remove the nesting material) after the young birds have fledged. Here is Scott holding the nest from box #9. Four Tree Swallows successfully fledged from this box.

And now for the Eastern Bluebirds!  Six of of our nest boxes (#1, #2, #3, #8, #10 & #13) were successful!  In total FORTY SIX young Bluebirds fledged this spring and summer!   Boxes 8, 10 and 13 all had two successful clutches.  Now here are some of the special moments from our Bluebird boxes.


Days old!


These young birds are close to fledge. It is very important for the nest box monitors to keep accurate records. Once the chicks are 12 – 13 days old one should not open the box as they may be scared to fledge early.


In some cases eggs may not hatch as in this box. Two hatched and two were not viable.


Maybe 5-6 days old


Sweet young bluebirds.



Eastern Bluebirds are very wonderful parents. In this photo the male is on the left and the female has a tasty morsel for the hatchlings.


Female Bluebird bringing home dinner.


Male and female perched on the Linvilla Christmas Tree wooden sign.


When we check the boxes momma and pappa bluebirds stay very close by so we do our job quickly and leave the area so the parents can get back to their duties.


Nine bluebirds fledged from box number 8. A clutch of 5 and followed by one of four.


In Box 13 there were two successful clutches and 9 bluebird fledglings all together. Here is one of the adults feeding the hungry chicks.



Hungry Bluebird!


As we travel in our vehicle through the many hills, valleys and rough dirt roads we often see other wildlife.  Here are a few of the sights a long the way….


Cedar Waxwing in the rain.


Blue Grosbeak


White tailed deer

Parting thoughts….

From the Bluebird Society of Pennsylvania:

“Why Get Involved with Bluebird Conservation?  Bluebirds bring us joy.  Bluebirds still need your help.  You can make a difference.”

Scott and I have taken on a duty that we take very seriously.  It does bring joy to our hearts to see so many new fledglings and we realize that Bluebirds are making a comeback due to people that put up and carefully monitor boxes.  Bluebird nesting habitat is being depleted as people clear land for new housing developments, highways,and shopping centers.   Pesticides also kill the insects that the bluebirds need as they are the main food source for many birds.  The sparrows and starlings continue to flourish and still pose a threat to our native birds.

We look forward to the spring of 2016 when we will once again carefully monitor and care for the 17 nest boxes at the Linvilla trail in Delaware County, PA.

Final photo:  As we were checking our boxes one evening last summer, we hoped to find a second clutch of bluebird eggs and to our amazement this beautiful rainbow appeared over the orchard.  It was a perfect way to end our summer evening and we did find four new bluebird eggs in the nest box! (notice the Bluebird house at the left end of the rainbow)


Thank you for reading this post and I hope you enjoyed it!

For more information on Bluebird boxes please contact the Bluebird Society of Pennsylvania, an affiliate of the North American Bluebird Society.


Great Horned Owls at Linvilla Orchards 2015

I will begin my story in the spring of 2014 when I began observing a nest located in a beautiful tall pine tree on the Linvilla Orchard’s property.  Linvilla Orchards is located in Delaware County, Pennsylvania and is a 300-acre family farm dedicated to agriculture, entertainment and education. My neighbor up the street is Steve Linvill and he told me about the nest of Red-tailed Hawks.  He knew I was a photographer and knew I had a special interest in birds, especially birds of prey

In the spring of 2014 a beautiful pair of Red-tails nested in the huge pine and successfully raised two beautiful and healthy young hawks. The two juveniles thrived and eventually successfully fledged. Here are a few of the pictures of the adults and young hawks that built and occupied the nest in the Linvilla Pine tree.

Adult Red-tail (female) stands guard in the nesting tree.20140607_IMG_7408_Web

Curious Eyass peers out of the nest (early May 2014)


The two young hawks grow rapidly as both adults catch and bring in small rodents and birds for their thriving youngsters.


In the photo below the two youngsters have begun to “branch” and are getting ready to fledge.


Mom and Dad are fending off the mobbing crows. Crows dislike Hawks and Owls. You will often find a raptor nearby when you hear and see a large loud gathering of crows.


I am particularly fond of the photo below as you will see later in this blog post.


The two juvies fledged to a nearby dead tree and then flew off to the forest to continue practicing their hunting skills.  The parents will continue to feed them until they are ready to be on their own.  God Speed young hawks!




In the winter of 2015, on February 16th, Steve was giving me a tour of the farm property as my husband and I were hoping to monitor the Linville Eastern Bluebird Trail. Steve was showing me where several of the boxes were located and we were thinking about where new boxes could be installed. While driving near the tall pine where the Red-tails nested in 2014, I asked Steve, “Would it be alright if we stop and take a look at the nest sight to see if the Red-tails were adding sticks in preparation for the 2015 season of nesting?”. He agreed and we pulled up near to the tree. I peered into the nest and was pleasantly surprised and very excited when I saw two tufts sticking out of the nest bowl. It was at that moment that I knew a pair of Great Horned Owls had claimed this nest as their own for the 2015 season. Great Horned Owls do not make their own nests, but rather adopt other nests built by Red-tailed Hawk, squirrels, crows, ravens, herons or other hawk species. They also may choose a tree cavity or a dead snag. In this case it was very obvious that this pair of owls chose the nest of last year’s Red-tails.

My first glimpse of the female Great Horned Owl sitting on eggs in now HER nest in the tall Pine tree. February 16, 2015


On February 17, we had a few inches of snow and Momma dutifully stayed in her nest keeping the eggs warm. A female Great Horned Owl will only leave her eggs for very brief times, maybe only two times a day to stretch her wings and meet up with her mate. He will provide her with food as she incubates her eggs.


Here you will see the male Great Horned Owl, always nearby keeping watch as the female incubates the eggs.


I would visit this location every few days to observe the owls and document the development of the owlets.  At this point I had no idea how many would successfully hatch and God willing thrive and fledge and it was also impossible to know exactly how many eggs were in her clutch.   It is very important to keep a good distance away as to not disturb the pair of owls during this very crucial time when Mom was very diligently sitting on the eggs.



Above is Momma on Feb. 22nd.  She seems to be sitting higher in the nest bowl which is a sign that the owlets may have begun to hatch.  I would not get my first glimpse of an owlet until several weeks later.


On March 17th I observed Mom attending to something below her.  I had a very good idea that she was busy with her owlets!


On March 21st, she is sitting tall and proud.  I knew it would only be a few days before she would let me have a peek at those growing owlets safely hidden under her wings.


At last on March 25th I saw the head of one of the owlets, poking through Mom’s feathery cape.

To view the above scene live click on this link:  Owlet is getting more active! 3/26/15



Above was one of my first photos of the two precious owlets on March 30th, later named Eli and Mary.  I’m sure you are wondering about the names and I will now share the story behind my choices.


The tree stands tall on  the Linvilla Orchard property and is very near the home of Paul and Peg Linvill.   They are the parents of Steve, Nancy, Sue and Jean Linvill.   I thought it would be appropriate to name Mom and Dad Owls “Paul and Peg” in honor of Peg and Paul Linville.   They were very happy to know this and in the above photo they are standing at the base of the tall pine tree, gazing up to the nest.   “Eli and Mary” are two of their grandchildren.  My hope was that this pair of owls may nest again in this tree or somewhere nearby and in future years if there were new owlets, I would bestow upon them names of the other Linvill grandchildren and there are quite a few!


Here is Peg with her two owlets, Eli and Mary on April 1st.  They are now so big that Mom sometimes needs to move a little out of the nest bowl.


Above, on April 2nd, Mom is busy feeding her hungry little owlets.  They grow at quite a rapid rate and is quite amazing to observe their developments.  Here are a few more photos from “Feeding Frenzy” and a video!  I believe they are about 3-4 weeks old at this point.



Video of Great Horned Owl Feeding Frenzy  (click on this link to view Momma feeding her little ones)


Owlet and Mom on April 7th.


Just like the hawks, Great Horned Owls are often mobbed by Crows.  Crows have a good reason as many times the Owls will often capture them as prey.  Great horned Owls eat quite a variety of animals, in fact they are one of the few raptors that will even kill and eat a skunk!


They are getting bigger by the minute!  Here, one of the two is “wingercising” in preparation for flight.  April 10th, 2015

Click on this link to see:  Great Horned Owlets Wingersizing 4/10/15

and if you want to see more!:  More Wingersizing! 4/13/15


Here on April 11th,  Peg roosts out on the branch as Mary and Eli rest in the nest bowl.  This photo reminds me of the one at the beginning of this blog where Momma Red-tailed Hawk was in about the same location as Peg and her young hawks were also in the nest. I’ll repost it below.


Same location, but one year earlier in 2014.


Here is Peg on a higher branch as the little ones gaze upward. April 12, 2015  This was in the early morning and Mom would often stay all day with them.  Soon she would be leaving them alone during the day, but she would never be far away.


One of my first good close up photos of Paul, the adult male Great Horned Owl. Paul is lighter in coloring than his mate.  He usually has a pleasant expression.

April 12, 2015


Peg “Mom” on April 11th, 2015  She has a darker face and usually has a stern stare.


April 15th, 2015.  At this point Peg is leaving them home alone during the daytime hours.


April 17th – Elie and Mary are thinking about exploring the tree branches.  Little did they know they would be forced to do that sooner than they thought.


April 18th, the day before a very strong storm raged through the area and destroyed their nest.

Click to see them branch for the first time, the day before the storm: Branching! 4/19/15


April 20th:   In the above photo you can see the remains of their nest, torn apart and strewn down the side of the tree and on the ground. Thankfully they had just started to explore the branches.  They seemed a bit lost at first without the comfort and security of their home, but they adapted quite well.


Mary sits in a crook of the tree for the time being.



Eli spends the day on a broken branch, but seems no worse for the wear.

20150420__MG_7175_WebPaul is roosting near the nest tree, always keeping one eye open!


Mom catches a nap after that destructive storm on April 20th.


Little owlets are so cute when they fall asleep on branches.  I think Mary liked her nest a bit better than this branch, but it served the purpose.  April 22nd



Mary wonders what the heck happened to her nest and where is Eli!


Eli is fast asleep on his favorite broken branch.


Mary is looking beautiful and really getting quite large!  There sure must be a good supply of rodents at the orchard.   Every farm needs a pair of Great Horned Owls, right?


Meanwhile, Dad “Paul”  is roosting peacefully nearby on April 23rd.

20150423__MG_7654 (1)_Web

Mom “Peg” on the other hand is keeping her eyes on me and lets me know I should not get any closer to her and her owlets.


Above on April 24th, Eli and Mary roost together,  the night before one of them worked up the strength, desire and courage to fledge!

On the eve of April 24th, they begin to fly from branch to branch!

Click on this link to see!  I believe I can Fly! 4/24/15

Exciting event!  On April 26th Eli is the first to fledge!

View Eli in the forest on April 26th, 2015:  First owlet fledges 4/26/15



Above, Mary remains in the pine tree.  However it would soon be her turn!


April 28th is Mary’s day!  She flies to meet up with her sibling and parents on the edge of the forest.

Click to view Mary explore her world outside the nest tree! 2nd Owlet fledges to the forest! 4/28/2015



Eli is looking quite handsome in this tree, not too far from the nest tree.


View:  Great Horned Owlet explores His new world!


Above the owlet falls asleep on a very unstable branch.20150502_IMG_8303 (1)_Web

Uh oh!  He loses his balance and almost falls out of the tree!20150502_IMG_8304 (1)_Web

But he regains his composure and acts as if nothing happened!20150502_IMG_8309 (1)_Web


The next week or so these two worked on their flying, landing and hunting skills.  I saw them together two more times in May.


Above Mary and Eli on May 4th, 2015.



Last time I saw them together, May 12th 2015.  It was Mother’s Day and I’ll never forget this final photo of Mom and the owlets.


Observing this family was an honor and a privilege and I am grateful to Steve Linvill and the entire Linvill family for allowing me to photograph, video and document their lives from February 16 – May 12th 2015.

God Speed young Owlets.

Thank you friends for reading this post.  I do not know where Peg and Paul will nest in 2016, but chances are slim that they will be in the same tree. Maybe the Red-Tailed Hawks will come back and make and even stronger nest in 2016!


International Festival of Owls 2015, a Personal Perspective

International Festival of Owls 2015 poster

This year marks my third trip to Minnesota to attend the International Owl Festival.  The festival itself is celebrating its 13th year and is a fundraiser for the International Owl Center. This blog post will take you on a journey from March 4 – 8 as I share my adventures with you before, during and after the festival.

Last year, if you remember,  I began my blog post with the story of “The Beautiful Man” in Goose Island WI.   ” He appeared, like a mirage, coming out of the forest riding towards me on his snow mobile!”  For more about that story please read my April 2014 post.  This year, I decided to repeat the trip to Goose Island because I wanted to experience hand feeding wild birds once again!  When I packed my bags I made note to include a bag of bird seed and nuts for my feathered friends in Wisconsin.

The flights from Philadelphia – Detroit – MPLS-St Paul – La Crosse were all on time and enjoyable.  I am very partial to Delta Airlines as I’ve never had a bad experience with them.  I am also very thankful I left on Wednesday March 4th because on Thursday March 5th almost all Philadelphia flights were cancelled due to a huge snowstorm.

And now to begin my adventure of 2015….

Wednesday March 4th

Goose Island was first on the agenda after my arrival in Wisconsin, before heading to Houston MN.

I pulled up to the feeding stations, opened my car door and lo and behold look who was first to greet me!

Downy Woodpecker was ready for a  meal!

Downy Woodpecker was ready for a meal!

It was a very cold day in WI and temperature was about 8 degrees!  It was perfect weather for feeding the birds and they seemed to be extremely hungry, very vocal and quite demanding. Even the squirrels and the deer came up to me looking for food!  Here are a few of my favorite pictures and a video from Goose Island 2015.

Downy Woodpecker is first to get food from my hand.

Downy Woodpecker is first to get food from my hand.

Next came the Black-capped Chickadee.

Next came the Black-capped Chickadee.

They were quite vocal on this cold afternoon and all quite hungry.

They were very vocal on this cold afternoon and all extremely hungry.

White-brested Nuthatch was 3rd in line for a meal.

White-breasted Nuthatch was 3rd in line for a meal.

He was very interested in my video camera!  Maybe thought it was a new type of bird feeder.

He was very interested in my video camera! Maybe thought it was a new type of bird feeder.

No, I'm not camera shy!

No, I’m not camera-shy!

There was quite a variety of beautiful birds all wanting some of the seed and nuts that I brought for them.

There was quite a variety of beautiful birds all wanting some of the seed and nuts that I brought for them.

Not even the deer were shy on this bitterly cold day.

Not even the deer were shy on this bitterly cold day.

After a wonderful afternoon at Goose Island I made the short trip over the Mississippi to Houston, Minnesota and arrived at my favorite lodge:  Loken’s Sawmill Inn.  Before hitting the hay on night one, I drove up to the top of the bluff and enjoyed a short hike and gorgeous view of the sunset.

Full moon graces the sky at dusk.

Full moon graces the sky at dusk.

Sunset on the mountain in Houston MN.

Sunset on the bluff in Houston MN.

Thursday March 5th

Well, this day proved to be more that I ever could have imagined.  My friend Rick Schultz agreed to spend a day showing me all of the Snowy Owls that have been spending the past few months near his home in central Wisconsin in the Amish farmland country side.  It was a three-hour trip (each way) to get from Houston to Rick’s home town, but it was worth every minute of the drive and I would do it again in a heart beat.  When I left Houston at 5:30 AM it was -15 degrees!  The highest temperature of the day was 6 degrees.  Snowy Owls love that kind of weather and they were out in full force on March 5th.  Rick was able to show me ten different Snowy’s  and a few of them we saw more than one time.  It was a day I will never forget and I am very grateful.  We searched from 8:30 AM until 4PM non stop!  NOTE – While I was at the festival I met a gentleman named Roar Solheim who is an Owl biologist from Norway. He has been studying owls in Norway for most of his life!  Roar was able to identify the ages/sex of the Snowy owls based on the feathers/molt in my photos .   Here are a few of the beauties I had the chance to photograph and Roar’s analysis is included with some of the photos.


Old male, 4-5 years old

1 1/2 year old male.  His primary feather 1 Juvenile, 2 &3 new, 4 Juvenile, 7 & 8 adult.  His Secondary feathers 1 Juvenile, 2 &3 mounted, 4 juvenile, 5 moulted, 6,7,8,9 Juvenile

1 1/2-year-old male. His primary feather 1 Juvenile, 2 & 3 new, 4 Juvenile, 7 & 8 adult. His Secondary feathers 1 Juvenile, 2 & 3 molted, 4 juvenile, 5 molted, 6,7,8,9 Juvenile

1 1/2 year old female, Primary feather 7 is adult and the others are Juvenile, Secondary moulted feather 6

1 1/2-year-old female, Primary feather 7 is adult and the others are Juvenile,
Secondary – molted feather 6

3 1/2 - 4 year old female, has molted 3 times

3 1/2 – 4-year-old female, has molted 3 times

7579_edited 7741_edited

Friday March 6th

Let the Festival begin!

Meet the owls of the International Owl Center 2015.


Ruby and Rupert, the two owlets offspring of Rusty and Iris, hatched in 2014 and were hand reared to become educational ambassador owls for the International Owl Center.


Alice the Great Horned Owl, celebrated her 18th hatch day and is the reason the Festival started 13 years ago. Alice was only 3 weeks old when she fell out of the nest, broke her left wing and thus could not fly or be released into the wild. Alice lives with Karla Bloem, the director of the Owl Center and has been trained as an education bird.


Timber the Barred Owl. In 2012 people were cutting down trees in WI and without knowing it, they cut down a dead/dying tree that held a nest cavity with young Barred Owls in it. They found out about the nest the hard way, because the chainsaw beheaded the young owls. Timber was found the next day in the nest cavity, still alive, but severely injured. He was raised by the Raptor Education group in WI and due to his injury was unable to be released to the wild. He joined the International Owl Center in 2014. Timber’s story sends a powerful message about cutting down trees. Whenever possible leave dead trees standing as they provide important habitat for owls and other wildlife.


Inside of the Owl Center on it’s opening day, March 6th, 2015. You can see Ruby and Rupert on the back wall, Alice is on the right and Timber to her right.


International Owl Center, temporary first home, while funds are raised for the future 15,000 sq. ft. Center in Houston, Minnesota.


On opening day of the festival there was a reception for Members of the Houston Nature Center.  The winners of the World Owl Hall of Fame were introduced and welcomed at this lovely event.  Good food and good times were had by all!


Karla welcomes everyone to the 2015 International Festival of Owls weekend.


Marco Mastrorilli of Italy, one of the award winners, speaks to the guests.


Hein Bloem, sporting his owl glove covering his cast. Hein is Karla’s devoted husband.


Roger & Lynn Meyer sharing their delicious wines.

7853_edited 7856_edited 7859_edited

Friday evening the festivities began with a live owl program by the Illinois Raptor Center, including a flying Barn owl over the heads of the audience in the gymnasium, and Eastern Screech Owl and a Great Horned Owl.  There was also a a family and adult-only Owl Prowl.

Saturday March 7th

Saturday morning Maxine and I enjoyed the Owl – Face Pancake breakfast at the local Lutheran Church.  It is always a well attended and fun way to begin day 2 of the festival.


Maxine and I enjoy a delicous Owl pancake breakfast!


Friendly volunteers serve us breakfast!

Today the Illinois Raptor Center gave another live owl program featuring the Short Eared Owl, the Barred Owl and a beautiful Snowy Owl.  The Illinois Raptor Center, in Decatur, Illinois was founded in 1991 to rehabilitate injured wildlife and to educate about threatened and endangered species and responsible treatment of animals.  Jacques Nuzzo and Jane Seitz travel with a wide variety of animals and bio-facts to spread their message through lively and entertaining programs.


Jane and a beautiful Short-eared Owl.


Jacques and the Barn Owl.


Barred Owl


Short-eared Owl


Eastern Screech Owl

At 1:30 on Saturday Marco Mastrorilli presented his program on the Festival dei Gufi (Italian Owl Festival).  Marco ‘s work with owls spans 26 years and many species.  Besides authoring nearly 40 scientific publications, he has also penned 11 books about owls, many for the general public.  He understands the importance of bringing scientific information about owls to the general public, which led him to create the Festival dei Gufi.  The 2014 festival attracted 25,000 visitors!


Stefania Montanino, Marco Mastrorilli and Karla Bloem discussing the Italian Festival of Owls “Festival dei Gufi” .


In the afternoon I went on a walking tour of the Parade of Owls, a series of artists interpretations of “owl-ness”, is a project of HARC, the Houston Arts Resource council, with the generous support of the Houston community.   The artists are Howard Tomashek (a sculptor from Winona, MN) and he used welded stainless steel to describe the forms and textures of a variety of owls;  Beth George and Ann Mathews, a creative team from Houston MN with many talents. Both of their owls are made of concrete and stained glass; and finally Tom Nelson (St. Paul MN) who made his piece from recycled bicycle parts to create an unexpected new form from familiar old ones.

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl


The Great Horned Owl

The Great Horned Owl

8066_edited 8069_edited


The Barn Owl

The Barred Owl

The Barred Owl

The Eastern Screech Owl

The Eastern Screech Owl


The Great Grey Owl swoops down!

The entire town of Houston celebrates during this special weekend and many local businesses get into the spirit of the event.8048_edited 8050_edited


Friends and Family attend the Banquet!

Friends and Family attend the Banquet!

Everyone looks forward to the Banquet! This year it was held at the Four Seasons in Caledonia on Saturday evening.  After our delicious dinner the World Owl Hall of fame Awards are Presented.

Charlene, Maxine and Pam

Charlene, Maxine and Pam

Hooston made a surprise appearance at the banquet and played charades with the audience.

Hooston made a surprise appearance at the banquet and played charades with the audience.

Whoo  am I ?  I'm a Long-eared Owl!

Whoo am I ? I’m a Long-eared Owl!

Whoo am I?  I'm a SAW - WET Owl!  LOL

Whoo am I? I’m a SAW – WET Owl! LOL

The fabulous awards table!

The fabulous awards table!

And the winners are:

Dr. Rocky Gutierrez, Spotted owl Researcher and Gordon Gullion Endowed chair in Forest Wildlife Research, University of Minnesota.  Dr. Gutierrez spoke about Don the Blakiston's Fish Owl, Winner of the World Owl Hallof Fame's Lady Gray'l Award.

Dr. Rocky Gutierrez, Spotted owl Researcher and Gordon Gullion Endowed chair in Forest Wildlife Research, University of Minnesota. Dr. Gutierrez spoke about Don the Blakiston’s Fish Owl, Winner of the World Owl Hallof Fame’s Lady Gray’l Award.

SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS - Bob Fox, Wild at Heart (Arizona) Wild at Heart has done extensive work with Burrowing Owl relocation, breeding of the endangered Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, and is a leader in rehabilitation.

SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS – Bob Fox, Wild at Heart (Arizona) Wild at Heart has done extensive work with Burrowing Owl relocation, breeding of the endangered Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, and is a leader in rehabilitation.



CHAMPION OF OWLS AWARD - Dr. Karel Voous , Dr. Wouter van der Weijden, a former student of the late Dr. Voous, will describe some of Voous' lifelong work with owls and their conservation, including his magnus opus: "Owls of the Northern Hemisphere".

CHAMPION OF OWLS AWARD – Dr. Karel Voous , Dr. Wouter van der Weijden, a former student of the late Dr. Voous, will describe some of Voous’ lifelong work with owls and their conservation, including his magnus opus: “Owls of the Northern Hemisphere”.    David Johnson (on the left) is the Director of the Global Owl Project from Virginia.



Marco Mastrorilli spoke about the Short-eared Owls in Italy.

Marco Mastrorilli spoke about the Short-eared Owls in Italy.

Sunday March 8

Sunday, the final day of our festival.  It is always sad when the festival draws to an end as I know I will be headed home to Pennsylvania and will not see many of these wonderful people for quite a long time.  Sunday morning was special as a dear friend, Marjorie Kitchen invited Maxine and I to breakfast at her beautiful home and farm in Houston.

Marjorie with one of her precious baby goats.

Marjorie with one of her precious baby goats.

Maxine and I both were loving the baby goats too!

Maxine and I were loving the baby goats too!

Dr. Rocky Gutierrez spoke about the Spotted Owls and the Blakiston's Fish Owls on the last day of the Festival.

Dr. Rocky Gutierrez spoke about the Spotted Owls and the Blakiston’s Fish Owls on the last day of the Festival.

Bob Fox was also a speaker on the last day of our festival.  He is the director of Wild at Heart in Arizona and worked extensively with Burrowing Owl relocation and breeding of the endangered Cactus Ferruginous Pigmy-Owl.

Bob Fox was also a speaker on the last day of our festival. He is the director of Wild at Heart in Arizona and worked extensively with Burrowing Owl relocation and breeding of the endangered Cactus Ferruginous Pigmy-Owl.

A special visitor spent a few hours at the International Owl Center this morning. An Albino Barred owl from from the Blackhawk Wildlife Rehabilitation Project in Cedar Falls, IA.

A special visitor spent a few hours at the International Owl Center this morning. An Albino Barred owl from from the Blackhawk Wildlife Rehabilitation Project in Cedar Falls, IA.


As the festival comes to an end, old and new friends gather with delicious Owl Pizza!



Roar Solheim and Hein

Roar Solheim and Hein


Marco and Stephania


Ron and Rae Evenson enjoying an evening with good friends!



On the morning of March 9, before my plane flew out of La Crosse airport, I decided to visit once again, Goose Island and this time bring along a few friends that never had the chance to hand feed birds.  Unfortunately the temperature was up in the 40’s, so there was not quite the demand for food as there was when I arrived and it was below 10 degrees.  My friends however did have success and I believe they enjoyed their experience.

Charlene feeds a

Charlene feeds a Black-capped Chickadee.

Stefania feeds a

Stephania feeds a White-breasted Nuthatch.

Marco with White-Breasted Nutchatch.

Marco with White-Breasted Nutchatch.

Marco, Pam and Stephania.  I was very happy to meet and get to know these two special friends from Italy.

Marco, Pam and Stephania. I was very happy to meet and get to know these two special friends from Italy.

I would like to thank Karla Bloom for her never ending love and hard work to make this world a better place for owls.  Without her leadership, love and dedication the International Owl Center would not exist.  Of course it takes quite a bit of funding to help make Karla’s dream come true so if you would like to help, please donate to this wonderful cause at   and remember to always…….   GIVE A HOOT!

“The International Owl Center is dedicated to raising public awareness about owls and building support of owl issues.  by sparking a personal connection to owls, we will create a broader awareness of environmental issues and help individuals become committed to the everyday actions they can take that will make the world a better place for owls… and all of us.”

Thanks for reading my 2015 Blog post and I will close with a few of my favorite scenes from Houston MN.  Looking forward to seeing everyone back at the festival in 2016.

With Love,


Please visit my website:



International Festival of Owls 2014, a Personal Perspective



This was the 12th annual International Festival of the Owls, but my second time to experience this delightful and educational event.

I will begin my adventure with a true story of the eventful start to my get-a-way weekend in Minnesota.

 “The Beautiful Man”

My flight from Philadelphia to Minneapolis MN and then to La Crosse, Wisconsin went very well with no delays and with very  smooth landings.  As soon as I got my luggage and rental car, I was ready to begin my adventure.  Because I arrived early in the day, I thought I would do a little exploration in WI and photograph some wildlife, before heading to Houston MN.  Karla Bloem (the Director/Naturalist of the Houston Nature Center) had recommended “Goose Island” as a possible place to find birds so off I went!  As soon as I started to drive the compact rental car, I had a bad feeling about it.  It was not a comfortable ride and the tires were not fairing too well on the snow covered areas of the roads.  However I made it to Goose Island and began to explore it.   There were not many people at all on the island as it was quite snow covered.  I was searching for birds of any kind, but was not having any luck.   I almost gave up and left, but something told me to try another part that I had not explored.  Well, big mistake…..  As I drove over a little hill, and over a tiny bridge, the thin layer of snow, turned into a few inches of snow and my car would not move through it!  There I was stuck in the snow, on a bridge and I could not go forward or backward.  There was not a soul in sight and I was starting to panic, when all of a sudden……

A “Beautiful Man” from Wisconsin came out of the forest driving a snow mobile!   I will never forget that moment of joy and happiness! I could not believe my eyes!   He was a mirage and he very generously helped me in a time of great need and desperation.   He asked if he could get in and try to get the car out of the deep snow and of course I agreed, but the car would not budge.  He then got out, and with his hands, he dug out the snow behind the tires.  Then I got in to the drivers seat, put my foot on the gas, and he pushed!  We had to try that about four times and finally he was able to successfully push me over the little bridge and out of the snow drift!  I thanked him from the bottom of my heart!  Sadly, I never asked his name or took his picture, but believe me he was a VERY Beautiful man inside and out! He was my guardian angel!  Before he left, I told him the reason why I was on Goose Island and that I really wanted to find some birds to photograph.  He asked, “Did you see the feeding stations?”  I responded, “No, just where exactly are they?”   It turns out the feeding stations were on the one road I decided not to go on and I thanked him again and was very grateful for the directions.  I began to drive but was a bit concerned (to say the least) when I saw that the roads were also snow covered…., but I decided I had made it this far and I was not turning back.   I saw a lot of bird activity on the left side of the road, so I pulled over and turned off the car.  No one was in sight at that time.   As I stepped out of the car the birds were acting very oddly and they flew at me and tried to land on my arms!  I wondered what was going on and grabbed my camera and started taking photographs.  I could not believe how many birds there were and how “tame” they seemed to be and not afraid of me at all.  Finally another car drove up and parked in front of my car.  Two women got out and had a jar of peanuts which they proceeded to pour into their hands, and with outstretched arms, they fed the birds, BY HAND!  I was amazed!  It turns out these birds are fed daily and they know that humans come to visit them bearing delicious treats.  The ladies were very kind to me and gave me some peanuts to share and they took a video of me feeding the birds so I could share it with my family and friends!   When it came time to leave, one of them even turned my car around for me, so I could safely get out of Goose Island!  The first thing I did was call the rental agency and ask if I could exchange the compact car for something that could get me through snow drifts!  Thankfully they were agreeable to that and the new car was perfect.  I felt safe for the rest of my journey.  There was quite a lot of snow in Houston MN, so I am very glad I switched cars.  All in all, looking back on my first few hours in Wisconsin, it was perfect!  I met a “Beautiful Man” and fed Downy Wood Peckers and Chickadees out of my hand!  Below is the video and a few of my favorite pictures from Goose Island.



Click on this link to view “Feed the Birds” video:

I safely arrive in Houston MN just in time to drive to my favorite spot on the mountain to view this spectacular sunset.


DAY 2  – Friday March 7th – International Festival of  Owls begins!

An afternoon reception starts off the festival and the honored guests who received recognition for helping to make this world a better place for owls.  Below is some of the delicious treats we were served at the reception.


Guess Whooo came to dinner?  Alice, the Great Horned Owl, of course!


Karla Bloem and Alice.  Alice is the reason the festival began as a way to celebrate her “hatch-day”.  This year Alice is turning 17 years old and if all goes well she may live to be 30 – 50 years of age!  Due to an injury at a very young age it was impossible for her to live in the wild and with her personality, she is well-suited for a job as an education bird.  Alice works with Karla at the Houston nature Center  and she actually lives with Karla in her home.  To learn more about Alice and her friends Rusty and Iris, go to and check out the blog and live video feed.  You can also follow Alice on facebook!


Below from left to right:  David H. Johnson, Exectutive Director of Global Owl Project, Heimo Mikkola Ph.D and 2014 Award winner “Champion of Owls”, Hein Bloem (Karla’s beloved husband), and Dr. Motti Charter the 2014 Special Achievement Award.


Everyone had a good time at the “Meet and Greet” reception for honored guests and members of the Houston Nature Center.

Friday evening was packed full of exciting events. Starting with a live owl program with Larry Dolphin and featuring his Barred Owl. Larry is the Director/Naturalist of the J.C. Hormel Nature Center in Austin, MN and as been an avid birder for over 30 years. He loves getting up early to call owls!  Below see the Barred Owl and Larry Dolphin!


Let me introduce Hooston, the mascot of the town and the International Owl Festival.


Over the weekend Kay Neumann, the founder of SOAR “Save Our Avian Resources” gave four presentations with live owls from the raptor rehabilitation, education and research program.  In the year 2013 Kay had over 200 patients in her rehabilitation center. SOAR is a non profit rehabilitation center and is located in west Central Iowa.  Their goal is to release birds back into the wild.  She stated that 60% of her patients suffer from lead poisoning.  She has treated 168 Eagles over 10 years and they tend to get lead poisoning from eating deer that were shot by hunters with lead bullets.  We need to encourage all hunters to switch to copper slugs!

 In the picture below Kay is showing us “Moon Face” the Snowy Owl.  This Snowy Owl dislocated his elbow.   Snowy owls have a thick coating of down and feathers around their mouth and also the extra feathers cover the top and bottom of their feet, like a pair of downy boots!  The Snowy Owl is a little bigger than a Great Horned Owl and the males weigh about 4 pounds, females 4 1/2 pounds.  They are the same genus as the GHO and have large round eyes and black beaks.



Here is a Northern Saw-whet Owl.  It is a tiny owl with a large head and yellow eyes.  They are nocturnal and hard to see, but typically roost in dense vegitation, just above our eye level and near the trunk of a tree.


Here are a few pictures of the Red Morph Screech Owl. They are nocturnal and nest in cavities.  They come in grey or red (Rufous) morph coloring and are masters of camouflage.  They eat mostly mice and insects.  They are often called the “Ghost Owl” because of their eerie ghost-like call.  They stay in one territory year round.


Next is the Short Eared Owl who is Crepuscular (hunts in late afternoon and early morning).  This particular owl fractured his humorous and sustained compound fractures.  It is a prairie species and nest in North and South Dakota and Canada.  They migrate in groups to Iowa in the winter and are endangered in the state of Iowa.  They eat mice, voles, insects, and snakes and often perch low on fences or branches and hunt on the wing.


The Barn Owl and the Barred Owl both do not have yellow eyes, rather very dark. Their eyes are not as big as nocturnal owls.  Barn owls are also Crepuscular.  They migrate to the south in the winter and are a warm weather species.  They have a pink beak and a heart shaped face.  The Male is much whiter in coloring and the female is a cinnamon color.  Farmers us them to control the rat population. Their call sounds like a scream.


The Long Eared Owl is a medium sized owl with elongated ear tufts, a rufous/orange facial disc and the white feather on it’s face form an X.  It roosts during the daytime in dense cover and often in conifers.




I thoroughly enjoyed attending all four presentations by SOAR.  Thank you Kay for driving all the way from Dedham, Iowa with these beautiful owls.

Following the live owl program, we had the opportunity to go on owl prowls.  I attended the “Adults only” bus and we were out quite late in the below 20 degree temperatures.  However it was all worth it when we heard Barred Owls calling back and forth to each other.

DAY 3  Saturday March 8th

One of my favorite things to do while I am in MN is to drive through the country side looking for birds to photograph.  Below are a few of the beauties I found.

Northern Shrike

Northern Shrike

The Horned Lark in flight


Pheasant in flight


a few more of the beautiful Horned Lark

IMG_9140__FB-2 IMG_9146__FB-2 IMG_9151__FB

Lovely farm in Minnesota


The Festival on Saturday was filled with many fun events such as:  Owl face pancake breakfast at a local church, live owl programs, kids activities and face painting, owl pellet dissection, owl nest box building, kid’s owl calling contest, owl themed lunch, and so much more!  We celebrated Alice’s 17th Birthday by singing to her and enjoying a delicious cake.

IMG_8650__FB IMG_8655__FB IMG_8661__FB IMG_8663__FB

I always look forward to the banquet on Saturday evening held at the beautiful Valley High Golf Club.  This is when the World Owl Hall of Fame Awards are presented.  This year’s winners:

Dr. Motti Charter – Special Achievement Award for 2014

Dr. Charter serves as the Scientific Coordinator of the Barn Owl Nesting Box Scheme in Israel, overseeing a team of people and 1,600 nest boxes.  He is also Israel’s team leader in the joint Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian project to use Barn Owls and common Kestrels as biological pest control for farmers.  He has taught ornithology to elementary and middle school students, worked with Long-eared Owls, Little Owls, and Spotted owls in addition to Barn Owls, and his work has been covered by various media including BBC News and the Discovery channel. For more information visit:

Below, Dr. Motti Charter is presenting his program Saturday afternoon at the Festival.

IMG_8640__FB IMG_8642__FB IMG_8753__FB

Below:  David H. Johnson, Dr. Motti Charter and Karla Bloem


Dr. Heimo Mikkola – Champion of Owls Award

Dr. Mikkola is from Finland, but his work has taken him to 128 different countries over his half-century of owl pursuits.  He has over 150 papers and books to his credit, including his most noted books:  Owls of Europe and his recent Owls of the World: A Photographic guide.  His research incudes not just owls, but the owlaholics who collect them and the superstitions that surround them.

Below:  David H. Johnson presenting the award to Dr. Heimo Mikkola


Dr. Heimo Mikkola presented his program at the Saturday evening banquet.


From left to right:  Hein Bloem, David Johnson, Dr. Motti Charter, Dr. Heimo Mikkola, and Karla Bloem


Friends having a good time together at the banquet!

From left to right:  Maxine, Charlene, Pam, Karla and Roseanne

Maxine, Charlene and Roseanne are all moderators on the Rusty and Iris live video cam chat. During the weekend the two owlets hatched and visitors could watch on the TV monitors all through out the high school.  This year Karla is hand raising the male and female owlets in her home, to be used as educational birds.


DAY 4 – Sunday March 9

Sunday began with a fascinating Birding and Natural History bus trip led by Dan Jackson and Brian Lee.  During this trip we stopped and checked every so often for Pandora.  She is one of the three owlets from Rusty and Iris’s 2013 season.  She has a transmitter on her tail feathers.  The man below would hold out the tracking device and if she was nearby the frequency’s would match up and we would hear static and little beeps.   We did locate the general location of where she was on March 9.  It was exciting to try and find her.

IMG_8817__FB IMG_8820__FBIMG_8817__FB-2

Then one other very special sighting was that of a Great Horned Owl that was nesting in a rock Quarry!  She has been doing this for several years apparently, so our guides knew just where to look.  Below are a few pictures of her in the cave on the side of the cliff.




Sunday was filled with many more exciting activities.  The photography contest voting was taking place in the Houston Nature Center.  I entered again this year and guess what?  My photograph of King Tuft, the Great Horned Owl in the Enchanted Forest, won 3rd place!  I was very honored and happy about this!  Here are the top 11 photographs:


And my entry is #5 on the left and below.


To conclude the Festival Karla presented a program with the highlights of Rusty and Iris 2013.  Here are a few pictures of Karla and her very special owl, Alice. Now what do you think…..does Karla look a bit like Alice? LOL

IMG_9023__FB IMG_9034__FB IMG_9041__FB-2 IMG_9042__FB IMG_9047__FB  IMG_9060__FB IMG_9062__FB IMG_9064__FB IMG_9067__FB

Thank you Karla for coordinating the International Festival of Owls 2014!

Karla is currently working to create an International Owl Center in Houston.

Mission of the Owl Center is:

The International Owl Center advances the survival of wild owl populations through education and research. We plan to accomplish our mission through biological and cultural programs and displays, green building design, citizen-science and other research, international exchange of information, the World Owl Hall of Fame, the International Festival of Owls, and other means.

To help support this wonderful cause visit:

Day 5 – Monday March 10

Today I packed up, drove around the beautiful country side one last time, and then flew home.  It was a long day, but all flights were uneventful and smooth take offs and landings.  I will never forget the experiences I had and the friends I met at the 12th annual  International Festival of the Owls.  I look forward to returning to Minnesota, God willing, in 2015.


In Memory of T2, a Very Special Red-Tailed Hawk


T2 (Mom’s 2nd tiercel) pictured above on May 30th, 2013 near the Franklin Institute Nest, Philadelphia, PA.


Friends,  as I was about to begin working on my post about the 2014 International Festival of Owls, I received shocking news that our beloved tiercel,T2 was tragically killed on March 17th or 18th, 2014.  This news was heart breaking.   Mom (our formel Red-tailed Hawk) and T2 had been mating quite often over the past few months and all of us “Hawkaholics” were anxiously awaiting for them to start bringing sticks and greens to the nesting box on the 3rd floor window of the Franklin Institute.   This would have been the 6th consecutive year that Mom would have laid her eggs there and raised them until they fledged.  This year however was starting out in a very unusual manner.   T2 and Mom were taking nesting material to a high light tower located at the busy 30th Street Train station.   We were all hoping the sticks would blow out during a recent storm and we kept believing they would return to their nest box at FI.  However it started to look like they would use that light platform for their new nest and not return to FI.  We will never know the reason, but maybe they liked the height of the tower as it would give the juvenile hawks more of a chance to glide farther away from the nest.  All of us however were very concerned that they would land on the train tracks and perish.  None of us could have predicted that our hero T2 would meet his demise on these tracks.  When a raptor is diving to capture his prey, all attention and focus is on the reward and the hawk is oblivious to danger.  Dad, in 2012 also met his untimely fate as he was trying to provide for his hungry family who were waiting for him at the FI nest.  Sadly, humans are the primary cause of death to urban raptors.  Many hawks perish due to  glass window strikes, secondary poisoning of rats or other rodents, airplanes, trains and car accidents.  The city is definitely a difficult and dangerous place for a raptor to survive and try to raise a family.  Much of their countryside and rural habitat is being destroyed by new construction and some raptors have no choice and must venture into the city.  

I began following these beautiful raptors in the spring of 2012.  I heard about the death of “Dad” who was hit by a truck on the expressway just a week after the three eyasses had hatched.   I tuned into the live streaming video nest cam and instantly was drawn into the family of friends that love these beautiful raptors.    My heart was hurting for the fans that had been following Mom and Dad for the previous 3 seasons. They were extremely concerned for the wellbeing of the 3 little ones in the nest and Mom.  Dad had been an excellent provider and without him, who would hunt for Mom and her brood?   That is where T2 entered the story.   He was Mom’s miracle hawk and our hero.  I will never forget when he flew into the nest box, along with Mom and began feeding the eyasses.  Mom bonded with him almost instantly!  This event took place less than a week after Dad’s tragic death.

Mom and many of the fans of the FI hawk family fell instantly in love with T2.  There were a few skeptical friends who did not trust him at first because it seemed as if he was eating a lot of the food that was brought in for the eyasses.  However it did not take long for all of us to realize that a miracle was happening right before our eyes.  Now according to experts, this is a rare event and has never before been witnessed by humans or documented.   However in the wild this may sometimes happen and we are just not aware of such an occurrence.  Thanks to today’s technology and the live streaming video cameras, we can sit in the comfort of our own home and watch nature unfold before our eyes.  Sometimes we do not like what we see,  but that is reality and it is not always a pretty sight.

T2 helped to raise these young hawks in the summer of 2012 and all three successfully fledged.  I must add that the Franklin Institute did allow a special friend (known to us as Cardi) to  place white rats on the ledge to make sure the eyasses were getting enough to eat.  It was a beautiful season 4.   Because of my proximity to the city, I was able to drive in and observe these RTH’s up close and personal.  The first post on this blog written on July 4th, 2012 and is titled “An Unforgettable Day with the Franklin Institute Hawk Family” will give you a glimpse at the Juvenile hawks from season 4.   This family of hawks was the inspiration for my blog, thus the name:  Pam’s Hawk Talk.  In 2013 Mom and T2 mated and together started their own family!  Three healthy eyasses hatched last year.  Sadly, two of the three perished due to flying into glass windows.  Peanut (the smallest of the three) was also injured, possibly hit by a car,  but was brought back to good health thanks to the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehabilitation clinic and released into the wild at a non disclosed location.  You can read all about Season 5 in my previous post “Reflections, Season 5 of FI Hawks”.  It was a season that started out joyously, but ended with heartache and pain.  

What will happen now is anyone’s guess.   Mom needs to find a mate and already there are quite a few young single Red-tails flying around in her territory.   Ever since T2’s death, Mom is staying closer to home and the nest box.  According to experts she may not lay the eggs (fertilized by T2).  They may be absorbed back into her system or she may drop them and leave them.  In order for her to successfully lay them and have them hatch, she needs to find a new mate and then together the will need to find a nest spot and we are all hoping they will chose the FI nest.  Basically we need a T3 and pronto!  This kind of a miracle may not happen soon enough and if that is the case Mom will probably not nest this year, but rather take a year off to find a new mate.   However there is still a possibility that T3 is nearby and things could happen quickly, but only time will tell.   

This video is in loving memory of T2 and dedicated to Mom.     We will never forget you and all that you have done in your short time in Philadelphia.    Click on the youtube link below.



Continue reading

Reflections, Season 5 of FI Hawks

I have not posted for quite some time and I have missed sharing my photos, videos and thoughts with you.   The last post written was dated May 22nd and at that time all was well in Philadelphia with Mom, T2 and the three young hawks.   Sadly this year did not have a happy ending for our beloved hawk family.  In this post I will share my reflections on the events that took place during the Franklin Institute Red-tail hawks, Season 5.

In May of 2013, I began visiting the hawks weekly and then more frequently as the spring and summer months went by.   It only takes about 30-40 minutes, depending on traffic to drive into the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.  I would park directly across from the nest on Winter Street, in order to observe the three precious eyasses.   Innocently they would poke their white heads out of the nest while waiting for Mom or T2 (Dad) to deliver food.  Sibling rivalry would occur when a parent would deliver food to the nest.  It was interesting to see the two larger siblings interact with “Peanut”, our endearing name that we (the Franklin Hawkaholics) bestowed on the last baby to hatch and who would remain the smallest of the three.


In this picture, taken on May 30th, you will see Peanut on the right.  Now the two eyasses on the left both hatched on the same day and we named them “The Twins”.  We were told by an expert  that they were probably male and female based on the thickness of their ankles: female’s ankles tend to be larger than the males.   At that point many of us began to refer to them as “Brother and Sister”.  Many months later and after much sadness and heartache we came to find out that the two larger siblings born first on the same day were actually both female.    I will continue to use the names Brother and Sister as it helps me keep my photos and videos consistent.  In the back of my mind, however, I personally had an inkling that “Brother” was a female.  He was the most beautiful Red-tail hawk that I had ever seen in my life and I instantly fell in love with him!  Here is “Brother” exactly one month later on June 30th.  Now don’t you think he is the most spectacular RTH specimen you have ever seen!Image

I must admit, life was much easier and less stressful when the 3 little ones were in the nest box on the 3rd floor window of the Franklin Institute Science building.  I did not worry about them because I knew they were safe and sound in the box and Mom and T2 were doing an excellent job of feeding and caring for them.  Once they left the safety of their nest, everything changed and the Hawkaholics began to worry about them and with good reason.

The city is a very dangerous place for a young hawk to learn how to fly and hunt.  It is hard enough in a suburban area, but in the city there are buildings with deadly windows that reflect like mirrors.  The innocent juvenile hawks look into these “mirrors” and see beautiful green leafy trees and blue skies and they are tragically deceived.   This year in particular our young hawks tended to chase fledglings in the trees and did not spend a lot of time on the ground as in past seasons.  If you look at my videos from the summer of 2012, you will see the young hawks practicing their hunting skills on pine cones, paper cups, plastic bags, gloves and quite a lot of other items.  This year, things were quite different.

In this photo, taken on May 30th, you will see Mom flying in with a meal.  What a wonderful Mom she was to these three precious little ones.  For the past 5 years she has successfully raised 15 (3 each year) young hawks.


Below is T2, our hero!  If you remember he came into our lives last spring when Dad was tragically killed on the expressway by a vehicle……just another terrible danger hawks face every day in an urban setting.  As Dad was flying down to get a meal for his one week old eyasses, a truck took his life.  T2 came into the picture just a few days later.  He bonded with Mom and took care of the 3 young ones as if they were his own.  He was our miracle and Mom’s miracle.  This season T2 and Mom mated and raised three beautiful young hawks.

T2, our hero, on May 30th


Below, you will see the 3 Eyasses on June 6th.  They are starting to loose their white feathers on their heads and are growing by leaps and bounds.


Below: Mom and her three eyasses on June 11th.  Ledging is another big event for these hawks.  Leaving the nest  for the first time is quite nerve wracking for the Hawkaholics who are watching via the webcam.   We wonder where the little one went when we can no longer see him on our computer screen.   Oddly enough it was little Peanut, the last to hatch but was the first to jump out of the nest to the ledge.


Below:  June 11th, after Mom leaves, the little ones play!  Here you see one of them testing out his jumping and flapping which we call “Wingersizing”.     I love Peanut’s expression, the little hawk on the ledge.



Below, all 3 on the ledge!  It seems that Sister is giving Peanut the evil eye, as if asking “Why did you jump out of our nest box first?”



Below, T2 flies in with a meal and asks “What have you little ones been up to?”


Little Peanut gives Dad a peck on the cheek.


What an excellent Daddy T2 has become.  This was a wonderful Father’s day for T2.


Below are pictures from June 17th, what a difference a week makes!!


Below:  Sister and Brother on June 17th


Brother, Sister and Peanut on June 17



Now in this picture you can see that they are facing out as they wingersize, a good sign that fledging could be any day now.





The nest is getting quite crowded these days!


This is one of the last photos I have of all three together.  I cherish this photo and all of the memories I have from this past spring and summer.  Well, maybe not all of the memories…..


Brother and Sister, forever in our hearts.


Peanut, above, on June 20th, the day that he fledged!  He was the first of the three to ledge and fledge.  What a brave and fearless hawk!


T2, a very proud Father, on the day Peanut fledged.

Below June 21, Sister fledges.  Whenever I look at this picture my heart aches as I see the reflection of trees and blue sky in the window.


Sister on the wall of the Franklin Institute, hours after she fledged on June 21.

Sister on the wall of the Franklin Institute, hours after she fledged on June 21.

June 21st was special to me as a friend took me into the board room to view "Brother" sitting on the ledge by the nest.

June 21st was special to me as a friend took me into the board room to view “Brother” sitting on the ledge by the nest.

I'll cherish this memory  of Brother forever.

I’ll cherish this memory of Brother forever.

Peanut, the first to fledge, is pictured here on the apartment complex roof next to the FI.  He was a very vocal hawk!  When I went home I would hear his cries echoing in my mind for hours.

Peanut, the first to fledge, is pictured here on the apartment complex roof next to the FI. He was a very vocal hawk! When I went home I would hear his cries echoing in my mind for hours.

On the evening of June 22, I waited for Brother to fledge, but he was not quite ready.

On the evening of June 22, I waited for Brother to fledge, but he was not quite ready.

June 22nd at dusk, Sister and Peanut sit together on the Franklin Institute.

June 22nd at dusk, Sister and Peanut sit together on the Franklin Institute.


June 23rd,early in the morning Brother fledged!

June 23rd,early in the morning Brother fledged!

Brother is now out of the nest and is looking for his siblings.

Brother is now out of the nest and is looking for his siblings.

The following video is of Brother flying out of the nest for the first time!  He was the last to fledge.  Remember he is actually a female, but  will remain “Brother” to me.

June 25th, Precious Peanut

June 25th, Precious Peanut


June 30th, Brother (right) and Peanut (left)

June 30th, Brother (right) and Peanut (left)

Brother , looking angelic

Brother , looking angelic

Tragically dear Sister flew into a window at Moore College of Art on July 3rd.  That was a heart wrenching and extremely sad day for so many people that loved and followed these three juvies.  She was barely 2 months old, but we loved her and had such high hopes and dreams for her.  I wanted to believe that she would carry on the lineage of Mom and T2.  I now know that most juvenile hawks do not survive their first year.  This reality hit hard with me and many others as for the past 4 years a tragedy like this has not happened to our juveniles (that we are aware of). I created this tribute video to remember dear Sweet Sister.

“Fly Free Sweet Sister”   May 1st – July 3rd 2013

July 6th Peanut and moved on, but Sister was greatly missed.

July 6th Peanut and Brother….life moved on, but Sister was greatly missed.

 Fly Free Sweet Sister

Fly Free Sweet Sister     May 1st – July 3rd 2013

Brother on July 6th

Brother on July 6th

July 11th Brother

July 9th Brother

IMG_5657__FB Peanut on July 9IMG_5664__FB PeanutPeanut on July 11th Pensive Peanut on July 9

Brother, July 16  missing Sister.

Brother, July 16 missing Sister.

IMG_7153__FB IMG_7146__FB-2

Brother, the last time I saw him.  July 20th

Brother, the last time I saw him. July 20th

Peanut the Hunter
Peanut the Hunter

I saw Peanut capture a fledling Robin on July 20th.

I saw Peanut capture a fledling Robin on July 20th.


Peanut the Hunter

Peanut the Conqueror

Peanut, trying to get the Robin down the hatch!

Peanut, trying to get the Robin down the hatch!

Peanut returned to the nest on July 20th.

Peanut returned to the nest on July 20th.

T2 and Brother in nest

T2 up on the ledge and Brother in nest

Brother at the nest on July 20th.  For some odd reason all four hawks returned to the nest on this day to eat.  Thankfully Joe Debold and I were there to see this special event.

Brother at the nest on July 20th. For some odd reason all four hawks returned to the nest on this day to eat a meal. Thankfully Joe Debold and I were there to see and record this special event.


Brother.  Tragically Brother flew into the same windows as Sister. He did not die instantly like Sister, but survived for over a week at the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehab. clinic, but sadly succumbed to his injuries.   Rest in peace dear Brother. Fly free with your sweet Sister.   Brother:  May 1 – July 27, 2013 

July 28th, the last time I would see Peanut.  Peanut was injured on July 29th, went to the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehab. clinic and was released on August 23rd to a non-disclosed location.

July 28th, the last time I would see Peanut. Peanut was injured on July 29th.  He suffered some kind of trauma and could not walk for a several days.  However thanks to the good care that he received at the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehab. clinic he made a complete recovery and was  released on August 23rd to a non-disclosed location.   Fly Free and conquer the world Peanut!

I created this special send off video for Peanut.

Some people may wonder why I follow this family of hawks and why I allow myself to get emotionally connected to them.  Well, I consider it a great gift and privilege to be able to watch the intimate lives of a family of RTH’s via a webcam.  This is something that we could never have imagined being able to witness.  Watching the eggs being laid and then hatch is  very special and then to follow them as the leave the nest is an extra bonus.  Living close to the city has its advantages.   Yes, I spend a lot of time observing and photographing this family and that is why it was so painful to lose them.  Would I do this all again?  Yes and I do not regret getting to know these three young birds, even if I could not follow them until they flew off into the great migrations.  Life is a gift and we need to cherish every moment we have with our human families and our animal friends.  We also need to spread the word about protecting our wildlife.   Moore College of Art already has hung banners on their windows to help prevent this kind of a disaster from happening again.

If you have read to the end of this lengthy post, you deserve a medal!  As I was living through the pain this past summer, it was too difficult for me to write and share, but tonight I was ready.  Thank you for reading and revisiting with me:  Reflections, Season 5 of FI Hawks.  We cannot forget these three precious hawks and how their short lives touched so many others. We must continue to be diligent and fight to protect the  innocent wildlife with which we share this planet.