Owl be seeing you

By Phil Plait | May 1, 2010 7:40 am

[Please check the bottom of this post for a related issue…]

I know, it’s Caturday, but I’ve expanded the concept — it’s my blog, y’know — to include all animals that I want it to. So here’s a pair of cuties for you:

Click to enhootenate.

These owlets — actually, Great Horned Owlets — are nested in a hollow stump about 5 meters off the ground along a creek not too far from my house. My wife heard about them, and we told her brother Chris, and he ran down there to get this and some other great pictures of them.

Mama and Papa Owl are usually nearby, in another tree, keeping watch. I was down there last week to see, and also spotted a hawk, a muskrat… and this guy:


That’s a Great Blue Heron — a lot of birds around here are Great — and I saw it standing in a lake not far from the creek and the owl. As I watched, the heron suddenly stuck its head into the water and came up with that fish (anyone know what kind that is?). That’s a pretty good meal! I noticed another heron a bit farther away, and I wonder if they’re mates. A little while later I saw one of them flying around, and in the air they are simply amazing. Graceful and huge, and I stood there and gawked at it.

All in all, that was a nice day to be out walking. Boulder in the spring is lovely (even if it snowed the other day; it melted in an hour or two though), and I have to remember to take some time to walk away from this accursed computer/internet/web thingy and actually breathe in some real life. There’s a lot of life out there.

[Note: John Billingsley, the actor who played Dr. Phlox in "Enterprise", sent me a note (!!) that he and several other Star Trek actors (Armin Shimerman, Robert Picardo, and Ethan Phillips) will be celebrating the LA Audubon Society’s 100th anniversary with an afternoon picnic and birdwatch on May 9th. The first 30 people to sign up to help will join them in this fun afternoon… it’s $150 per person and proceeds go to the society. Call Martha at 1-888-522-7428 or send an email to books "at" laaudobon "dot"org for details.]

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Comments (36)


    “I know, it’s Caturday, but I’ve expanded the concept…”

    Owls are flying cats.

    Funny Cat

  2. PCB

    It’s hard to be sure, but I think that the heron’s lunch is a yellow perch.


  3. I believe that heron has caught a yellow perch.

  4. Very cool! Looks like a nice area to be hanging around in the springtime.

    As for the fish, I don’t know them very well, but I’m going to hazard a guess at Yellow Perch?

    Herons can take some big meals – I was a bit stunned at the size of one I witnessed in Florida: http://wading-in.net/Birds/Gulp2.html

    Still hunting for a good owl nest, getting late in the season down here now.

  5. Great pics Phil! Sounds like you had a “great” day (pun intended, of course).

    I’m thinking of my retired kitteh Scrapper this Caturday. Miss him dearly.

  6. Tal Greywolf

    Given the markings, it is probably a yellow perch. Which would be a good meal for the Great Blue Heron. Very good photograph.

  7. Scott

    I live in Arkansas, and we see a great blue heron every now and then. They are truly a magnificent sight when flying. I’m dumbstruck every time I see one.

  8. Fishy Business

    I’m pretty sure that’s a Walleye. The Division of Wildlife stocks them at the Boulder reservoir. Those stripes give him away. http://forum.belmont.edu/cornwall/walleye_small.gif

  9. Luke

    Just yesterday I went on a walk to the beaver pond behind my house and stumbled across a Great Blue Heron rookery:


  10. Michel

    Some birds are too big to get exited about…
    *resumes caterday*


    (his name is Titio btw)

  11. SGT Arnold

    It looks like a yellow perch to me too! It looks like you beat me to the punch Al.

  12. Sili

    Robert Picardo does work for the Planetary Society as well.

    ‘Little owlet in the glen, how ungrammatical of you. You should say “to whom, to whom”, not “to who, to who”.’

  13. shawmutt

    Looks like a yellow perch to me too. Nice pics!

  14. Great pictures!
    I was down at the beach here in Squamish a few days ago, and was watching a Blue Heron walking in the shallow water trying to catch fish. Several nights this past few weeks I’ve been woken up by an owl somewhere in the woods near my home!

    I have a great amount of respect for Robert Picardo, as he has also been a great spokesman for the National Down Syndrome Society in the US. I have a child with Down syndrome.

  15. Daniel J. Andrews

    The fish does have yellow perch markings. The shape is more bass-like though. I’m not familiar with southern/western fish, however. You southerners sure can grow those warm water species big down there. That’s quite a catch.

    The heron further down may or may not be its mate. You can often see numerous herons feeding together, especially in large open areas with shallow water (e.g. ocean tidal flats–I counted 34 of them when out west last week).

    And being an avid birder and a somewhat average Trek fan I would greatly desire a chance to go out birding with those people—but my job calls me in the opposite geographical direction this summer. /sulk.

    Owls are flying cats

    You sure flying cats aren’t dangling from the talons of an owl? :)

  16. Kaptain K

    I would say it’s a bass of some kind. Maybe a rock bass or white bass.

  17. timebinder

    It looks like it could be a babble fish. The bird wasn’t going to eat it, he was going to put the fish in his ear so he could listen to your fascinating ruminations on astronomy, space flight, and skepticism.

  18. Raptor

    I would say, yellow perch as well. Here’s why. From the Peterson’s field guide of freshwater fish says this about the fish: ‘Farly deep, compressed body. 6-9 green-brown saddles extend down yellow side (often as triangular bars). Black bloth at rear of dorsal fin. To 16 inch.’ As this fish gets larger, it apparently also gets deeper, given pictures online


    Here’s the range map. http://www.bountyfishing.com/images/species/map_yellowPerch.jpg

    Just for some other ones that it could be confused with and why I don’t think it’s them. A small mouth bass can also take on a yellow color, but the stripes on it are generally not as defined as the yellow perch. Same with a shoal bass. White crappie have stripes, but are not yellow. Too big to be a blackbanned sunfish. Ruffe, walleye, and sauger are thinner and stripping not as defined. And body shape rules out any of the suckers.

    It could also be a peacock bass, but the range map for them is wrong.

    Here’s the peacock bass http://www.panamafishingandcatching.com/gatun/8lbs_bass_r_maze.jpg
    and their map http://www.jjphoto.dk/jj_fishing/map_exot_sam.jpg

    Now, these fish are keep as pets, so it’s not to say there isn’t an escapey that’s managed to survive… but how clear the stripe are, still leads me to think yellow perch.

  19. Allyson

    I too would guess that the pictured fish is a perch. Not positive though.


    @ Daniel J. Andrews (#7),

    Owl answer that with this: Using Barn Owls for Rodent Control.

  21. Floyd

    I’m assuming the picture was taken in Colorado. The fish could indeed be a perch (a cold water fish in Indiana where I originally come from), but could also be a bluegill, a young bass, or another panfish like a pumpkinseed or warmouth. No fish book is at hand, so that’s as close as I can guess.

  22. Neil

    Great pictures!

    Not to belittle the BA’s great weekend, but I just wanted to comment on his footnote and say that Robert Picardo and Ethan Phillips are awesome, based on their TV work alone. I’ve liked Phillips’ work since “Benson” was on, at the time I was in grade school. Great job in the movie “The Island” as well. Although I have to admit, I looked up his list of credits, and was shocked by all the stuff he’s been in that I haven’t seen. Every time I see him in something, I recognize him, and I always wonder why I don’t see him in more productions…apparently, Sci-Fi and comedy aren’t the only genres out there…who knew?

    Just after “China Beach” but before his Star Trek work, I saw Robert Picardo play Feste the jester in a junior college production of Twelfth Night at COS in Visalia, CA. He was brought in as the professional actor to work with the students, and it was a great production. ( And a pretty good date as well, but I don’t think I need to thank Mr. Picardo for that…)

    I love their characters; it’s cool to know that they are supporters of important causes as well. I checked out the L.A. Audubon Society’s website, and they are billing the event as “Bald(ing) Eagles of Star Trek”.
    Being a life-long Sci-Fi geek who was fully “Picard” on the dome by 26 years old, it gave me a pretty good chuckle. Lost the hair, kept the sense of humor!

    Sorry to rant on the footnote, but for all the tabloid dramas, silly cults, anti-vax nonsense and Oprah-style claptrap that pours out of Hollywood like sewer sludge, there are still some great people there as well. Keep up the good work, bald sci-fi geeks, and I promise I’ll keep being a bald, sci-fi geek fan.

    P.S…no disrespect to John Billingsley or Armin Shimerman…I’m just not as familiar with their work except for the role of Quark, who is still at least as good a role model as Oprah or Jenny McCarthy.

  23. @Neil:
    John Billingsley also had a role in an independent movie called, “The Man From Earth.” It was a great little movie, while technically sci-fi, it wasn’t your typical sci-fi, if that makes sense. If you can find it, I’d encourage you to rent or buy it!

  24. Leander

    “…and actually breathe in some real life. ”

    Yeah, I agree. Especially for a ‘reality-based’ guy that might be a cool idea. But beware of what taking in the world in as it is and unfolds, instead of thinking and intellectually dissecting it all the time, might do to your much-beloved paradigms. Just saying.

  25. FWIW the chinese for owl is “cat-headed eagle.” 貓頭鷹

    So, for Caturday, close enough?

    Also, the pictures above are fantastic.

  26. I met Robert Picardo at the LA Worldcon a few years back. I was walking to the book signing area, and he was heading there as well. I told him most people there would want to get his signature for Voyager, but my wife and I had been fans of his since he played The Cowboy in Inner Space (a GREAT role). He was so pleased he gave me a signed copy of a pic of him as The Cowboy. *That*, celebs, is how you treat a fan. :)

  27. Dan

    yellow perch. for sure. a big one. never caught one that big. wow.

  28. Neat! We were always casually into birding, but since we move to Kirkland, Wa we have become even more avid. While we miss the beloved pelicans of California, we have had a returning pair of Cooper’s Hawks nesting in the park behind our house. Many a morning or evening we have sat at our dining table with a clear, unaided view of a hawk eviscerating its kill on a large, curved bough we call the “feeding branch”.

    My 4 year old is completely fascinated (he has no issue with the “visceral” quality of it after having watched dozens of hours of his favorite nature show, “The Life of Birds with David Attenborough”) and we are thrilled that he knows at least 7 birds of our neighborhood simply by their call. He even once proposed a made-up game of “Great Horned Owl” with a similarly minded friend! We could not be more proud.

    This is our third year of seeing the (mated for life) couple show up, gather nesting materials and hunting, then watching the fledgling offspring learn to fly and migrate away for the winter. One baby even rested on our deck rail once while earning his wings! It was a real thrill.

    It’s amazing what one sees and learns simply by paying attention to what is already around them.

  29. Dan

    8. Fishy Business Says: I’m pretty sure that’s a Walleye. walleyes from what i know like really deep water. the river i fish on has some holes 90 + feet. thats where i nail them. Perch or sun fish.

  30. Dang! I wanted to point out the heron’s perch dinner (it’s the stripes)! Does not look like a Walleye to me. Ah well. Herons are cool. We have many of them in northern Ohio. Egrets too.

  31. Good stuff! We also have birds in SE GA, and they tend to pose on branches and on feeders.

  32. Blondin

    Nice Hooters!

  33. Gary

    Nice shot of the GBH with yellow perch, but ya gotta get that horizon (shoreline, in this case) straight. Water runs off a tilted image and distracts from the object of interest.

  34. Chris Winter

    Ah yes, the Great Blue Heron. Impressive bird — as is the Great White Heron.

    I was even more impressed when, some years back, I was making a phone call in Cocoa Beach or Titusville and a Great White tried to walk into the phone booth with me. Bird came up to my shoulder. Fortunately for both of us, it changed its mind.

    BTW: That first photo, to my eye, looks like it might be contest-worthy.

  35. Scred

    “Little owlet in the glen, I am ashamed of you;
    You are ungrammatical in speaking as you do!
    You should say “To whom, to whom”, not “To who, to who”!

    Your little friend, Miss Katydid, may be green, ’tis true;
    But you never heard her say–
    Who the HELL are you?”

    –Frasier, when Roz walks into his studio for the first time

  36. I’ll gear this review to 2 types of people: current Zune owners who are considering an upgrade, and people trying to decide between a Zune and an iPod. (There are other players worth considering out there, like the Sony Walkman X, but I hope this gives you enough info to make an informed decision of the Zune vs players other than the iPod line as well.)


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