DSC_1262Adult male northern hawk owl is active during the day.

For a few weeks I have been photographing a pair of northern hawk owls that have nested in a stand of tall white spruce.  Hawk owl populations are cyclic and for the past three years they have been rare in my part Alaskan interior.  Over the past twenty years, I have been trying to capture their little known life history.  In those twenty years I have found only six or seven active nests.  DSC_1119

Male arrives near the nest with prey.  Red-backed voles are their primary diet, but they do sometimes catch small birds and snowshoe hares.


   The male guts his prey before caching it on spruce boughs near the nest.

240The female hawk owl incubates six white eggs for about thirty days.

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White-winged crossbills and red squirrels are busy near the hawk owl nest collecting white spruce cones,  They feed on the tiny seeds within the cones.  Both species can fall prey to the northern hawk owls.

DSC_1241Another red-backed vole for the pantry.


665-15-2-MQFemale boreal owl peeks out from her nest in an old northern flicker nest cavity. She emerges around midnight and leaves the nest for only five minutes a day.

As the night invades the black spruce forest near out home, I can be found setting up for my night watch.  A pair of tiny boreal owls have five round,  white eggs inside the old flicker hole.  Unlike the diurnal northern hawk owls, boreal owls are nocturnal and while I photograph them, so am I.

238Female incubating her five eggs.

235The black spruce stand at Midnight.  This is as dark as it gets this time of year in Alaska interior.  A few robins are serenading their night song, and common snipe high in the sky announce their territories with rapid high-pitched notes made by vibrating tail feathers.  The snipes territorial calls are quite similar to those made by the male boreal owls as he arrives near the nest with food.  I have to listen carefully to distinguish the lower pitched owl calls or risk missing their quick deliveries.

234The tiny re-backed vole is quite a haul for the small, male boreal owl.  He announces his arrival with prey to his mate with a low call.

236The male arrives at the nest to deliver the red-backed vole to his mate.  Unlike the hawk owl, the boreal owl male does not butcher his prey first.

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