We took a very brief trip (2 nights) during mid-May to see the Yosemite owls. We principally timid our trip to correspond with the peak calling period of the Flammulated Owl. Also by planning a trip before end of May you can avoid masses of people that arrive for Memorial Day. What we did not plan for was the moon phase and rising. As it turned out there was no moon and overcast skies. Managing to photograph this sparrow sized owl on a pitch-black night, in a dense forest is almost impossible. We spent several hours on our first evening trying to locate this very small owl. Modifying our search, we decided to look for some of the other Yosemite owls.
Great Gray Owl – A Miss
Great Gray Owl in Yosemite Wawona Meadow
On our way into the park we had heard Great Gray Owls calling in the Wawona meadow. We headed back to this location to see what we could find. Two Great Gray Owls were calling in the forest across the meadow. WE spent about a half hour trying to entice the owls out of the forest. Finally one of the owls flew over to the tree that we were standing under. The problem was that he was about 40 feet up and there was no clear view to the owl. After another half hour of trying to get him to fly over to the next set of trees, that we had walked over to, he flew back across the meadow into the forest. At this point we decided to try another location just outside the northwest side of the park. Continue reading
Northern Pygmy Owl in Yosemite
Two of us managed to get out of work, after many failed attempts, for a very quick trip to Yosemite. On the nights of September 27-28, we set out to find Great Gray Owl, Spotted Owl, and Northern Pygmy Owls. Although we did have good views of both Spotted and Northern Pygmy Owls. We did not spend the majority of our efforts looking for these species. The roads inside the park were also under “post-summer” construction which inhibited our movements in finding the owls. We only got out one morning, for a short period, to look for pygmy owl. That is when I took the photo here. This is a particularly good month to find this species because of post fledging vocalizations. Maybe next year we will have more opportunity to search for this owl thoroughly. Hopefully we will also take better photos and some video.
Great Gray Owl
Great Gray Owl in Yosemite
Fortuitously, timing of this trip was coincident with the release of recent research findings on the Yosemite Great Gray Owl. While older taxonomy had all Great Gray Owl as belonging to one of two subspecies: Strix nebulosa nebulosa of North America and Strix nebulosa lapponica found in Europe and Asia. Genetic analysis of Yosemite area Great Gray Owl has shown them to be a unique subspecies: Strix nebulosa yosemitensis, according to lead researchers John J. Keane and Holly B. Ernest. They also estimated that the Sierra Nevada population had not interbred with the northern populations for approximately 26,700 years. We got very close views and were able to take high quality pictures. This was pleasing and made our short trip a success. This is Yosemite’s rarest resident bird with population estimates ranging from 50 to 200 individuals in or within fairly close proximity of the park.
We did pull up right next to a female Spotted Owl sitting on a snow pole but didn’t get photos. She was along one of the main highways inside the park. The owl was obviously hunting the road. Given the dangers of such behavior on a main road this is a bit sad.