Great horned owls on the nest at the Wildflower Center

With family in town last weekend, smack in the middle of wildflower season, we made a visit to one of my favorite places in Austin: the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Sure, I wanted to see bluebonnets and other spring flowers, but I also knew a secret that not everyone who visits knows.

A great horned owl nests each year in a planter niche on the stone walls of the entry garden (officially known as the South Texas Mission Garden), by the Wetland Pond. She’s there right now. Do you see her?

How about now?

A telephoto lens or a pair of binoculars will give you a better peek. She’s found the perfect, protected spot under a spiny Wheeler sotol but still enjoys a commanding view.

I don’t know if it’s the same owl that returns every year or maybe a descendant, but she’s raising three fuzzy chicks in the sotol niche.

The chicks were a little shy on this day, but here you can see one amid the sotol leaves, with the same lamp-like eyes as Mama.


Edging around to the left, I spotted a more curious sibling on the other side of the sotol. Adorable!

For comparison, and for owl lovers, here are my posts about great horned owls at the Wildflower Center in previous years:
Blossoming spring morning at the Wildflower Center, part 1, April 21, 2013
Winter into spring at the Wildflower Center, February 20, 2013
Great horned owl chicks growing up fast, May 2, 2011
Great horned owlets nesting at Wildflower Center, April 20, 2011

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

14 Responses

  1. Dee says:

    I love seeing these beautiful creatures so closely. They are exquisite. Thank you.~~Dee

  2. Wow – they don’t even look real! If you said they were stuffed animals, I’d believe you. So beautifully stoic.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I heard that from someone last year too and almost mentioned it in my post. They lend themselves well to stuffed-animal representation, don’t they? —Pam

  3. Jenny says:

    What amazing photographs. Did you see the second one? I only saw one when I was there last week. I hope she kept her young safe today during the frightful storm. Not much shelter from hail in that spot.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I only saw mama owl, not papa. I saw 3 chicks too. I bet they came through the storm today just fine. That niche and sotol would offer some protection. —Pam

  4. Kris P says:

    I so wish I could see owls here – but, as you point out, perhaps they’re here hiding in plain sight.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      They are so well camouflaged. I bet you do have several screech or great horned owls in the neighborhood, Kris. If you’re a night owl like me (pun intended) you’ll hear them calling at night. —Pam

  5. Sheryl says:

    LOVE the last photo. Wouldn’t want to see those eyes unexpectedly. Definitely a Halloween photo. I can hear these birds in our neighborhood but have yet to spy one. Maybe if I build a rock tower?

  6. elaine simmons says:

    I found you via “The Arizona Plant Lady”. Having moved from Iowa to AZ, I am getting an education on the many plants from both of you. I hear an owl every night but haven’t been able to locate where he is coming from. I do have the privilege of watching a mama hummingbird’s nest. There were two chicks but one has flown the nest. The other one will be doing the same within a day or two.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Welcome, Elaine, and I’m glad you’ve found Noelle, as she’s a wonderful source for learning about desert gardening. And how marvelous that you’ve been able to observe a hummingbird nest! —Pam

  7. Aga says:

    Are they real?!? I have never seen them so close.