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