Family of fearless owls finds home in Fresno photographer's backyard

The owls don't mind being fed by hand or even being close to humans.

Dale Yurong Image
Wednesday, August 31, 2022
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A Fresno photographer made friends with a family of owls that kept visiting him in his Old Fig Garden home - and even rescued one of them from a net.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- David Carlson's Fresno backyard is set up like a photography studio because the magic happens only at night.

Owls fly in to feast on mealworms.

Carlson's backyard buddies are a real hoot but they're actually Western Screech Owls.

When David set up his camera near a tree one night, owls perched on his $6,000 lens as if to taunt him.

Carlson will sometimes wade through his swimming pool to get low-angle shots.

A year ago, David played a screech owl audio after identifying the birds.

"Within five minutes of playing that audio, I had six owls in the backyard," he says.

But they all disappeared after the 4th of July.

This March, he played the call again. Two owls came back.

Capturing their images is difficult because it's pitch black when Carlson snaps a photo.

"I created a space, a focus space, and then when the owl would fly through that, that's when I would take the picture," he says.

The owls don't mind being fed by hand or even being close to humans.

"Even though they're incredibly small, these owls are fearless. They are not scared of anything."

A week ago he found an owl upside down, stuck in the netting which protects his wine grapes.

"I think he was trying to get one of those beetles because they're all over the place."

Carlson brought the bird inside and kept him in a box in his room to rest and recover.

"Gave him some water, gave him some worms and within 24 hours he was ready to fly away.."

A wildlife expert told Carlson the owls may have been pushed out of the foothills because of recent wildfires.

"They just happened to fly into the city and saw old Fig Garden and said hey, 'This is a good place to stop'," says Carlson.

"It's been truly exciting to be able to interact with them," he adds.