Get our free mobile app

When you see a pile of cars stopped on the side of the road and several people with HUGE cameras, you obviously wonder what the heck is going on, right?!  Almost every night, this is what you will see on West River Road in NW Rochester just north of the stoplight at 55th Street. I did some checking around to see what is hiding in the trees and got the answer.

The red pin on the map is where all the commotion is happening.  Almost daily, you will see cars parked on the side of the road and people holding some monster-size cameras.

Credit Ed Denbow
Aaron Galloway/Townsquare Media

After chatting with a few people, I've learned that in the trees is a Great Horned Owl with her hatchlings. Rochester photographer Mary Severson captured several amazing photos of the owl including this "family portrait" with her new owlets.

We asked Mary if she knew when the owlets hatched. “I don't know when the owlets actually hatched. They are growing fast though; the nest is getting crowded!” she said. Capturing these beautiful shots of the owl was not a snap—and-go situation. Mary said she was out on the side of the road for hours. “I love to photograph nature and wildlife so I lose track of time but it may have been about two hours waiting for these shots.”

Here are some great tips from The Zumbro Valley Audubon Society about how to visit the owl and owlets so that you aren't a nuisance to the owls and avoid distressing them.

READ THIS: What To Do and What Not To Do If You Want To See Rochester’s Great Horned Owl

A few fun facts about the Great Horned Owl:

  • They can fly at speeds up to 40 mph
  • They tend to hunt and be more active in the evenings from 8:30 pm until midnight and again in the morning from 4:30 am until sunrise.
  • What does it eat? If it runs, walks, flies, swims, or crawls, it is most likely an animal that the Great Horned Owl will feast on.  In our area, the hunt will typically include mice, rats, voles, and rabbits.
  • Details on how it catches and eats its prey is a little gruesome but all of the above facts including these details can be found on the Wikipedia page for Great Horned Owls.

I don't want photographers coming to my yard trying to catch a glimpse, but we did happen to catch this guy sitting in our backyard. I was a bit shocked not only at the sound of the wings flapping when he flew down but that he was this close to us.  (This was caught on a simple Android device.  No telescopic camera or lens needed.)

Credit: Chris Williams

What animals have showed up in your yard?  I'd love to hear about it!  You can find my contact info here.

We've had almost all of the animal species in Minnesota show up in our yard including coyotes, skunks, deer, turkeys, and opossums. Luckily, I haven't seen a snake yet and I hope I never do because I will freak out. Minnesota is home to some nasty snakes though and you can see 17 species that call our state home if you keep scrolling. (If you know someone who doesn't like snakes, you can also send them this story to freak them out...it works because my family does this to me.)

Listen to Jessica Williams from 6 am until 10 am weekdays on the Y-105FM Early Morning Show with James and Jessica.

LOOK: The 17 Snake Species of Minnesota