My friend Mia and I had such a great time in June with the Short-eared Owls at Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Montana that we decided to return in September. Getting close to them was more difficult this time because they weren’t nesting and feeding young. However, one morning we got lucky.
A cooperative Short-eared Owl
When we awoke we were socked in with heavy fog. As it slowly began to clear we went looking for birds and found this owl perched in the middle of the road. As we approached, it flew a short distance to this post and then allowed us to get very close. We’re sure this is the same female that we had photographed in June on the same territory.
Short-eared Owl female looking for voles
She was very accepting of our presence and within a few minutes was looking for voles below her post perch. We were right at the edge of the fog and as it would swirl around us, alternately getting thicker and then clearing a bit, we knew that some of our images would show the effect of the fog more than others. The soft feathers of owls don’t give up their fine detail to photographers easily, even in the best of conditions. But we simply couldn’t pass up this opportunity with this beautiful female and we still got some shots we like very much.
Short-eared Owl checking us out
Occasionally her attention would be diverted from the potential prey in the grass below her and she would look directly at us, wondering I’m sure what was causing that clicking noise (two camera shutters) coming from that big red pickup truck. She didn’t look at us often though and it was a humbling experience for Mia and I that she was so comfortable with us so very close to her. To give you an idea just how close, I had to take these shots vertically to get her in the frame and most of my images here are only cropped to about 75% of full frame.
Practicing her parallax skills
Occasionally she would practice her parallax skills on us and give us goofy looks like this one. In this image the effects of the fog are a little more obvious but I loved her pose.
I’ll never forget our time with this wonderful lady. A truly wild bird in a spectacularly beautiful place and she gave us 13 minutes of photographer’s bliss before calmly flying away. Those who don’t understand why I enjoy photographing birds must have never had an experience like this.