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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Burrowing Owls‏

June 23rd, 2010 · 2 Comments

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After my friend Sharon and I hiked around Adams County Regional Park photographing birds yesterday, she asked me if I wanted to try to find some burrowing owls that she had discovered a few days earlier. Of course, I did.

So we drove about 15 miles due east of the park, where we found them. These owls actually live within the city limits of Denver at the edge of Denver International Airport, the biggest American airport (and second biggest in the world) in land area.

Burrowing owls here generally nest and roost in burrows that prairie dogs excavate, and these are no exception. Sharon and I spent several hours watching them. We were able to get as close as about 70 feet from their burrow home.

We found a new family. Mama and papa owls has a brood of nine owlets, all about a month old.

When we arrived, we found another photographer there before us — long before us. Mike, an advanced amateur photographer from nearby Thornton, Colorado, had been spending hours almost every day for the past three weeks photographing the family. Such patience I am only beginning to learn.

Sharon and I stayed only for a couple of hours yesterday. I took more than 500 photos of the owls.

But I knew that I could do better today, so I went back. Sharon had something else to do, so this time I went alone, except Mike got there about an hour after I did.

Yesterday I didn’t have my 1.4 tele extender. Even though I used my 400 mm lens, I needed the 560 mm reach that the tele extender would give me, which is effectively 896 mm, since my camera body has a 1.6 crop factor.

Also, with that setup I needed to use my heavier tripod rather than my lightweight hiking tripod that I used yesterday. Further, I had forgot to bring my cable release and forgot to turn off the lens image stabilization.

And I wanted to get to the owls’ burrow earlier for the better light at that time. So I got up at 4 a.m. this morning, arriving just before sunrise at 5:31, when I started shooting. At that time only mama owl was up. An hour later the babies started coming out of the burrow, and I have enough patience now that I stayed for another couple of hours.

Mama at Sunrise

Mama at Sunrise

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Three Owlets

Three Owlets

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Mama and Five Owlets

Mama and Five Owlets

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Face-off with a Prairie Dog over the Burrow

Face-off with a Prairie Dog over the Burrow

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Mama Defends Her Babies and the Burrow

Mama Defends Her Babies and the Burrow

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Posted in: Photography

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 jackie sawyer // Oct 8, 2013 at 7:01 am

    Dave, ran across your blog when looking for places to find burrowing owls around broomfield,co. I will be in Colorado spring of 2014 for my daughters graduation from CU boulder. Wondering if you would have any insight into where I could find these guys or a great place for blue birds.

    Thanks

  • 2 David Mendosa // Oct 8, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Dear Jackie,

    The most reliable place to see burrowing owls in the front range is to the north of Denver International Airport, where I saw those that I photographed on this blog post. It’s not far from Broomfield (where I live in Boulder is farther). I’ve also seen them in Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge and just to the north of Boulder. My regular hiking partner says that she saw them recently on the south side of Lookout Road between 75th and 79th Street, and I intend to go there soon.

    However, I will have better information in the spring when you visit here. You are welcomed to email me at mendosa@mendosa.com at that time.

    Namaste,

    David

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