February 9, 2016

by

Bill Maynard, a botanist and former high school biology teacher, has worked for various government agencies from Alaska to South Florida and for The American Birding Association. He discovered the 87,000 acre Chico Basin Ranch to be the perfect natural laboratory to study and photograph birds, dragonflies, grasshoppers and other insects. Chico Basin Ranch Natural History Resources : BIRDING CHECKLIST // BIRDING MAP // DRAGONFLY & DAMSELFLY CHECKLIST //

In December, Great Horned Owls, the most common owl on the Chico, are already paired and both males and females are calling, their distinctive low hoots heard throughout the nighttime.  By February, females are incubating eggs, sitting on nests, this one in a stick nest, others found in the cavities of large cottonwoods.  By early May, young owls are almost full grown and poking their heads out of cavity nests, or falling out of stick nests as the siblings fight for every scrap of food brought in. This is the essential predator, the adults with silent flight caused by the shape of the feather edges, hunt throughout the evening hours and rabbits, hares, skunks and large rodents are easy prey.  As in all owls, sounds are funneled into a parabola-shaped face where the squeaks of prey items are easily translated into precise locations. Razor sharp talons are used to break prey necks and tear flesh into bit-sized pieces.

Photography by Bill Maynard