Monday, February 05, 2007

Big Pupils & Nest Cams

There hasn't been much news around here lately. Owls just aren't birds of action. We've had some of the normal destruction that happens on occasion--such as an unsuspecting loaf of bread left on the counter, some boxes containing new merchandise for our Owl Stuff store (thankfully none of the merchandise was harmed), and Alice even did a new one--she grabbed a banana peel out of the compost bucket to drag into the living room. But no news on the nesting front.

Alice still likes to hoot with me in the mornings when I get up. It's not long sessions...a few minutes will do. But sometimes when I hoot with her, Alice's pupils get enormous.

Unlike humans, owls have control over the size of their pupils. They are forever adjusting the size of their pupils if they are really looking at something. And they adjust a zillion times faster than our pupils. They even work independently of each other, so they can have one large pupil and one small pupil at the same time, which is great if one eye is in a shadow and the other isn't. Kinda funky looking to see, though.

But Alice's pupils can get enormous, too, to the point you can just barely see the yellow ring of her iris around her pupil. This usually happens in the morning, at the end of a hooting session, or sometimes when she's in her nest.

Light levels are normal, lights-on-in-the-house light levels or morning sunshine, so she's not doing this because it's dark. I wonder if it has something to do with the whole mating thing.... She's not receptive when she has big pupils, but she does seem to want me to just be with her. But then again, maybe she's just tired.

I've attached a somewhat dark and fuzzy photo of Alice with her big pupils. It's hard to get a good photo of her like this, since the camera makes interesting sounds and prompts her to snap out of this trance-like state. It's a bit fuzzy because using a flash on pupils that huge up close is just nasty, and owls have atrocious red eye. Red eye reduction? Get real. It's not possible with owls.

If you're looking for some real owl action, check out one of the FOUR (count 'em four!) Great Horned Owl nest cams on the internet:

Baldwin Energy in Alabama:
Yes, it WAS and osprey cam, but no more. This cam is in color and updates once per hour from 6 AM to 6 PM Alabama time. This owl has been on eggs for a while...not sure how long.

Colorado State University:
This one is in color and streaming, so it updates every second or two. You may need to find a place to download certain software to get this to work. My computer has what it needs, so I can't tell you what you need or where to get it. I think this lady recently went down on eggs. Her nest is a natural nest in the lower right hand side of the image, and well camouflaged. Usually you just see the back of her head.

Excel Energy's Valmont, Colorado plant:
This cam had infrared (so you can see what's going on at night!!). It updates every 2 minutes, and there is an archive of images from the past 24 hours that can be viewed. These guys haven't laid yet, but they both spend time in the nest box (originally for peregrines) almost every day.

California State University at Bakersfield
This one has been offline for a few days. It's also in color and streaming, so it's very fun to watch. It also requires special software to view, but again, I've already got it on my computer, so I can't tell you what you need or where to get it. She's been on three eggs for weeks already.

I would highly recommend checking out the Bird Cam Forum at Here members post observations, comments, and photos from all kinds of owl cams around the world. You'll find threads for the above mentioned owl cams, so you can see the highlights of what's been going on, even if you don't have time to watch the cams yourself. It's wonderful!

And since I'm pretty much eating, sleeping, and working the Festival of Owls for the next month, I simply have to remind you about it! It's March 2-4 in Houston, MN, and Alice will be celebrating her 10th hatch-day. Another extremely exciting point of the Festival is that we will be presenting the World Owl Hall of Fame awards--one to an owl and one to a human who have done extraordinary things to make this world a better place for owls. BOTH winners will be there in person (or in the feather) to receive their awards! One is flying in from overseas, and the other from about as far away as you can be without coming from overseas. It will be incredible. Awards will be presented at the Friday night banquet, and half the tickets are sold already with almost a month to go yet. Don't wait to get your tickets if you plan to attend.

For Festival of Owls details go to

For Owl Hall of Fame details go to and click on "hall of fame."

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