Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Bulletin 234 - Best of 10 years #7 - Owls

As most of you know, owls are my favorite birds as they have almost human like flat faces and forward looking eyes. So if you get just the right exposure and the bird is looking right at the camera, they have Mona Lisa eyes and seem to follow you around the room as you move.

I discovered this in 2007 with an owl, that I still consider my favorite bird photo all all time. It will be the last in this review.

One of the more unusual sighting of an owl for me was in Sarasota Florida. My wife and I had gone to the Botanical Gardens there because they had an orchid exhibit. After touring the exhibit, we left the green house and entered the grounds. Immediately we saw some people standing on the path staring at something. I didn't see anything and asked them. They said there was an owl roosting on a palm frond at eye level. Well sure enough a small owl was sleeping on the palm frond. Fortunately I had my camera in the car and retrieved it. It was an Eastern Screech-Owl.

Eastern Screech-Owl
2 of these owls I found on a trip to Duluth Minnesota in the dead of winter..traipsing through knee deep snow in below freezing temps. Yes, we birders can be crazy! The Northern Hawk-Owl was easily found as he perches on the tops of trees. Notice the very long tail on this owl.

Northern Hawk-Owl
The other was a Snowy Owl. This is a large pure white owl with yellow eyes of the arctic tundra. Juvenile birds like this one have some brown streaks. He also has a black paint splotch on the right side of his head, so he can be IDed out on the ice in the harbor.

Snowy Owl - immature
In the Rio Grande valley in Texas, there is a place that one can reliably find the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl. It is at San Miguelito Ranch. It is the only sure place in the USA to find the bird but call ahead as in the blog note.

Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
While I was at the San Miguelito Ranch, it was very windy and it allowed us to approach a barn with a sleeping Barn Owl leaning against a beam.

Barn Owl
The 27" Great Gray Owl is the largest owl in North America. It is a bird of the far north boreal woods. This one was along the Denali Highway on Alaska and was sitting on its nest. It is the only one of this species I have ever seen.

Great Gray Owl
The only tropical owls I have photographed well was this pair of 18" Spectacled Owls in Panama in 2014. The larger female is on the left.

Spectacled Owl - pair
In 2012 in California, my wife and I had a guide take us to see a roost of Long-eared Owls. These 15" owls roost communally in the winter. there were more than a dozen in a single tree. Here is one of them.

Long-eared Owl

The endangered Spotted Owl has dark eyes. This one was in Arizona.

Spotted Owl
Sometimes, I will get lucky and find a bird disheveled after a rain. This is a common owl known to everybody in North America, the 22" Great Horned Owl. It was at dusk in Galveston after an all day spring migration birding outing. I only had enough battery power for a couple of flashes and got this one with him staring at me. He sure is having a bad hair day.

Great Horned Owl
Finally my favorite bird photo ever, and another owl after a rain. This Burrowing Owl spent the winter at Fort Travis Park on Bolivar across from Galveston. I had photographed him many times between New Year's and early April when he left. I think this photo in my 16th month of doing bird photos made it into a passion for me.

Burrowing Owl
Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald


photos copyright 2006 - 2015 David McDonald

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