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Tag Archives: Northern Pygmy Owl

Last month, as we longed for 2020 to end, I was inspired to put up a 2020 Christmas tree in the snow. It was a dead, burned pine from the 2014 fire. It had finally fallen over and I dragged it home through the snow and set it up where I could see it from the house. I even put a few decorations on it. It still stands out there. We also had a lovely evergreen inside the house.

Two days ago, as the dogs and I returned from a walk, I noticed something new in my tree. Not any bigger than my fist, it was a Northern Pygmy Owl. We were going to have to walk near it to get in the house and I was surprised that it didn’t leave its perch even though we were barely social distancing. My camera was inside ready for this moment. I have seen a pygmy owl here a couple of times in the last month and had hoped for a good opportunity to photograph it. Many others are seeing them here in the valley. I wonder if there is a bit of a pygmy owl irruption this winter? Last year I did not see any. Yesterday I saw one from the ski trail and couple weeks ago, I saw one while walking in the hills across the valley.

I saw it again late yesterday afternoon as dense fog rolled in. It was perched in a live pine with a fine view of the bird feeders. These tiny owls generally weigh less than 2 1/2 ounces and are ferocious predators, sometimes taking California Quail and Northern Flickers. The Cornell Lab has more info on Northern Pygmy Owls here.


Lots of birds have enjoyed our feeders this winter. The feeders are set up so we can see them from our main windows throughout the day. A tiny Northern Pygmy-Owl has been terrorizing the even tinier Common Redpolls. Red Crossbills (yes, their bills are crossed) show up most every day and there is, occasionally an American Goldfinch. Most years we have lots of goldfinches and House Finches but not this year.

On days when the temperature gets up to freezing and the sun is shining the honeybees will work at cleaning out their hives. It seems so strange to see dead bees in the snow. It’s supposed to be a good thing – an indicator that the live bees are keeping things tidy in there.

We had a tree-climbing expert come in and install a new nest box from Nice Nests, high up in our biggest dead ponderosa pine tree. Hopefully the kestrel that was here earlier in the winter will return and raise some young birds in it next summer.

Early last week I sat down to eat breakfast and noticed that I had a guest. Just outside the window was a Northern Pygmy-owl perched on the deck railing. So close I could almost touch the bird. These owls are very small – less than seven inches long with a wing span of twelve inches and weighing 2.5 ounces! They have false ‘eyes’ on the back of their head in order to confuse potential predators. They nest in tree cavities in conifer or deciduous forests in the mountains and move to lower elevation when the snow falls. They eat small rodents and songbirds as well as insects. This bird was watching my feeders where there were at least three types of finches to choose from – House Finch, American Goldfinch, Pine Siskins.

My breakfast got cold as I watched and photographed the owl. It didn’t mind when I moved around inside the house, trying to find a place where the windows weren’t too dirty. My camera was more interested in focusing on the dirty windows rather than the owl! Finally Sky noticed the owl and walked towards it with evident curiosity. At first the owl didn’t seem bothered by her but then she barked and the owl flew to a new perch.

Despite what the calendar indicates, Spring is bursting out all over. The animals feel it. They are out foraging for fresh food. Insect-eating birds have returned from their winter vacations and are having no trouble finding bugs to consume. A Northern Pygmy-owl spent a couple of days here eating the voles whose dirty handiwork is emerging from the melting snow. I’d hoped the owl would stay longer to put a real dent in the vole population but it has moved on. Both Western and Mountain Bluebirds have arrived. The Western’s are checking out nest boxes and making plans for the upcoming breeding season. It is fun to watch the pairs take turns examining a box and seemingly discussing the pros and cons of each one. ‘Look this one has a nice view’. ‘ Ahh but I like that one over there with the better perch’. Well what about that one out there?’ ‘Too close to the dog corral’. And on and on it goes. The Say’s Phoebe, a pretty bird with a soft, sometimes two-note call has also returned. It is a member of the flycatcher family and easily identified, unlike some of its relatives. And high on our hill I found a singing Western Meadowlark – truly a joyous sound of spring! Most of these birds were pretty distant for photography, except the ferocious looking owl. But that didn’t keep me from trying.

And on another note, Ken took the lids off of his two beehives and sure enough, they are still alive and ready to start foraging as soon as the flowers start to bloom!

Some days are better than others. Most days are good but some are really better. Today the sun came out after days of new snow falling. The sun revealed things we could not see with the gray light of snowfall. What a change! My friend and I went skiing at the Chickadee trails near Sun Mountain and while the trails are a little slow from all the new snow, the sunshine and blue skies and gorgeous landscapes all around us made it seem perfect.



After fresh snowfall, you have to watch out for those dumps from the big trees! They can bury you if your timing is bad. Or maybe you will just get a touch of the frozen fairy dust sparkles on your face.




I have not seen or even heard any Northern Pygmy Owls this winter and I mentioned it to my friend who said she hadn’t seen any as well. Much to my surprise, I spotted one on the Sunnyside trail on this bush maybe only six or seven feet above my head!


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 Living in the Methow is the best.


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