Learning to Fly and Spooky Owl in the West Desert of Utah

On Friday, a good friend and I headed out to Utah's West Desert in the hopes of finding the ever elusive Short-eared Owl. On the way to the remote location we saw a family of Swainson's Hawks. The 3 young hawks were still getting comfortable with the art of flying. They had great spots on big mounds of dirt to stretch their wings and work up the courage to take off. Many attempts were made, but flights were aborted several times. Mom Hawk was keeping a close eye and would often fly-by and call to the hawks. Below is a seres of images from the experience. 

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After the Hawks finally took flight we watched them fly to a nearby pole and mom, ever watchful, would circle above us and make sure we were not a threat to the recent fledges. These experiences are few and far between and to be able to witness the power of nature is amazing. 

As we continued the journey towards the desert we encountered many raptors along some dirt backroads which I have always called the "Raptor Roads." It had been months since I had seen a Ferruginous Hawk and it was a treat to see this one low to the fields.

Ferruginous Hawk Fly by, 

Ferruginous Hawk Fly by, 

We Found a second family of Swainson's Hawks in a remote dead tree and stopped for a minute to check them out. The young hawks have such great colors and markings.

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Finally, we reached the spot where we would hopefully see the Short-eared Owls and we waited for the day to start ending. Dawn and Dusk are great times to see Short-eared Owls. We searched and searched, but in the end no owls showed up. Fortunately, we never come up empty handed when looking for birds! On the drive back we saw numerous hawks coming in to roost for the night and grabbed a few more images. 

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As we were about to call it a day, we drove by an old cemetery and thought it may be a good spot to check out. We saw the shape of an owl in the distance on top of a tombstone and at first thought it was a decoration. The binoculars quickly came out and confirmed that it was moving. We slowly approached from the car and had about 30 seconds to snap a couple pictures before it flew to hunt for the night. I can't think of a better way to end the night than with a Great Horned Owl sighting in such an interesting and unique setting. I will end this story with the image I was able to capture of the owl. Until the next adventure......