The bird of the day for our second full day on the Point and Shoot Nature Photography Adventure in Costa Rica was probably this immature Spectacled Owl, which Cope found for us a few miles from his home in La Union de Gaupiles in Limon, Costa Rica. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Anti-motion blur mode, with supplemental light from a light cube attached to the flash shoe. Processed in Polarr.
There are often Eastern Screech Owls nesting or roosting along the boardwalk at Magee Marsh, and this year there were two…sitting out approximately 100 yards apart. They were there every day I visited during the Biggest Week in American Birding. There was often a spotting scope on one of them, effectively blocking the boardwalk and creating a owl-jam that was difficult to navigate. The panel shows both individuals, three shots of one, and one shot of the other (bottom right). Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and assembled in Framemagic.
When we stopped for lunch our first day in Kruger National Park in South Africa, our Ranger/Driver asked if I had seen the Owl. Of course I had not so she showed me a tree with incident tape strung up around it and an African Scopes Owl sitting in a fork tight against the trunk, just above eye-level. Apparently it had been there for some time. I maneuvered around the taped off area to find an open line of sight for this shot.
Sony RX10iii at 600mm equivalent field of view. Program Mode. Processed in Lightroom.
These two Great Horned Owl chicks were out on the branch for the first time yesterday. We have been seeing them, along the boardwalk at Magee Marsh among the warblers, deep down in the crevice below this perch. At one time both owls were up on the branch, and then one of them apparently decided to go back into the crevice…but it looks like maybe his brother stood on him before he could get all the way down. Looks like. And it makes a good story. He’s not heavy, he’s my brother.
Nikon P900 at 1500mm equivalent field of view. 1/500th @ ISO 200 @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom.
Rio Santiago Lodge in Honduras is where you go to photograph hummingbirds, but over the past year the Lodge has had several attractions besides the hummers. Just after I was there in February 2015, a newly fledged Specticaled Owl moved into the area behind the lodge, and beginning last fall was seen regularly within a short hike of the Lodge. The bird is now just about a year old, and can still be found, most days. The guides at the lodge keep track of its comings and goings and generally know about where to look…consequently it is now perhaps the most photographed Specticaled Owl in the world :).
And what an amazing bird it is. Beautiful in all the ways any owl is…but spectacular in its facial pattern. On the day I was there, it was somewhat obscured by branches…but still an amazing sight.
Nikon P900 at 1800mm equivalent field of view. 1/30th @ ISO 800 @ f6.3. (Pretty good for hand-held at 1/30th second.) Processed in Lightroom.
There has been a Screech Owl in this nest box at Estero Llano Grande State Park and World Birding Center in Weslaco Texas for at least the past two years…and it right around a corner in the trail from the Common Paraque that has been roosting beside the path for past 6 years. Two great birds, reliable with a few dozen yards of each other. World-class Birding Center indeed! For those who are new to owls, and Eastern Screech Owls in particular, this fellow is small…not much bigger than a Robin.
Nikon P610 at 1440mm equivalent field of view. Flash aided exposure at 1/200th @ ISO 200 @ f6.5. Processed in Lightroom.
This is a grey morph Eastern Screech Owl. They also come in red morphs, and the two colors are scattered randomly in the population where they overlap. This owl’s mate is a red. The screech owl is about as well camouflaged as any bird. There were birders on the boardwalk at Magee Marsh during the Biggest Week in American birding while I was photographing the owl who, despite my best efforts, the best efforts of many other helpful birders, to point the bird out, never did see it either with naked eye or binoculars. And this is about as exposed as it can get. Generally it is partially obscured by leaves. I say generally, because this owl has frequented the little angle of woodland where the boardwalk branches off to form the back loop for at least 3 years, and it was just up the boardwalk from there for several years before that. It is a faithful owl, if difficult to see 🙂
Nikon P900 at 2000mm equivalent field of view. 1/80th @ ISO 800 @ f6.5. Processed in Topaz Denoise and Lighroom. Cropped slightly for composition.
There are several Eastern Screech Owls in the Biggest Week in American Birding area. One along the boardwalk at Magee Marsh, one right around the Black Swamp Bird Observatory building itself, one at Ottawa NWR, and one along the boardwalk at Maumee Bay State Park. And those are just the ones I know about!
This bird is the BSBO Owl. After 3 says of sitting hunched almost invisible and apparently asleep against the trunk of a tall evergreen (near the top of course) we found it in the trees immediately behind the building as it is in this image…at full alert…and with a clear line of sight. A treat indeed.
Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 75-300mm zoom. 1200mm equivalent field of view (2x digital extender). Shutter preferred. 1/640th @ISO 2000 @ f6.7. Processed in Snapseed on my tablet.
Okay, you have your icy stares of some repute…but there is nothing like the snowy stare of the Snowy Owl. Despite the photographs you see, those yellow eyes are not seen often in the field. Most of most days, at least here in the southland in this invasion winter, the Snowy sits with its eyes hooded staring out at the world through a thin crack…if not with eyes completely closed. Certainly in the best light for photography, the Owl is likely to have its eyes tight shut. 🙂
Still, patience has its rewards, and if you spend enough time with a Snowy Owl, you will catch it with its eyes open and glaring yellow. In flight shots of course the eyes are always open…and late in the day, when the sun sinks low to the horizon, the Owls open up to begin hunting. This late afternoon/early evening was the first time I have caught our local Snowy Owl in a period of relative activity. You might have seen the flight shots posted a few days ago.
Even when sitting, this day the Owl had its eyes pretty much wide open…open enough to appreciate the signature Snowy Stare.
Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 75-300mm zoom. 600mm equivalent plus the 2x digital tele-converter built into the E-M10 for 1200mm equivalent. ISO 200 @ 1/1250th @ f11. Processed in Snapseed on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014.
This is a captured bird…but not a captive bird. The wildlife biologist at Logan Airport in Boston has captured over 140 Snowy Owls on the airport this winter. This shatters the previous record of 80 birds, and simply overpowers the 6-8 caught in a normal year. Almost daily he makes the drive north to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, near Newberryport, to release one or more Owls into the wild. On weekends the releases are public, and public relations, events. Yesterday a crowd of perhaps 150 people of all ages had gathered at 1PM for the arrival and release of the Owl. We were treated to a very informative talk on Snowy Owls in general, and invasion years like this one in particular. And then he got the Owl out of its crate, and proceeded to walk around with the Owl on his fist, still telling us the story of Snowy Owls, around and around the inner circumference of our circle, often less that a foot from the rapt faces of the crowd. The Owl took all this attention in stride, posturing and posing as only an Owl can, seemingly not at all perturbed to have been captured, and not at all perturbed to find itself on display this close to people. It seemed to have an all-in-an-owl’s-day’s-work attitude, and certainly gave the gathered crowd a memory none of us will soon forget.
It is, by the way, a young (this year’s) female. Odds are against it…they are against all young birds who suffer up to 85 percent mortality in their first year…but just maybe this young lady will wend her way back, come April or May, to the Artic Tundra and raise her own brood.
I was at the back of the crowd, so my shots are taken holding the camera over my head using the flip out LCD on my new Olympus OM-D E-M10. The 75-300mm zoom gave me an excellent (150-600 equivalent) framing range from about 12 to 15 feet. Shutter priority @ 1000th of a second. ISO 800 @ f7.1. 600mm equivalent.
I have lots of pictures from the adventure…and I will undoubtedly share a few more, along with more of the story of invasion years that we head.
Captured but not captive…that, in fact, pretty much sums up this Snowy Owl’s attitude perfectly.