Short-eared Owl Replay

This shot is near the top of my short-list of favorite images. You may have seen it before because I posted it just over two years ago and in the past it’s been one of the thumbnails in the rotating banner at the top of my blog.


short-eared owl 7880c ron dudley1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 800, Canon 7D, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS USM +1.4tc, not baited, set up or called in

I took the image in the Centennial Valley of Montana on June 25, 2010 as this male Short-eared Owl delivered a freshly caught and still-living vole to his family at the nest. On this cloudy day I’d been struggling with light for photographing birds in flight but for a few moments some sun broke through and lit up the owl in the foreground while the mountains in the upper background were still in shade which gave me an effect I like a lot. I also enjoy the framing, composition and sharpness of the bird, the eye contact and of course the vole. And the memories I associate with this owl are some of my all-time favorite in the field.

But why post the image again?

In the past I’ve printed this photo several times for others but I’ve never printed it large for myself and recently I began to wonder why not since I’m so very fond of the image. So last week I ordered a large canvas print wrap and picked it up yesterday afternoon. The print is 36 x 24 and at those dimensions the bird looks stunning. At that size and resolution the detail in the bird is impressive and there’s even a distinct catch light in the right eye of the vole (here at only 900 pixels wide it can barely be seen).

So obviously I’ve been looking at this image a lot lately and since many readers haven’t seen it larger than my banner thumbnail I decided that it deserved another go. I wish I dared post it at 1200 pixels but copyright infringement issues prevent me from doing so.


28 comments to Short-eared Owl Replay

  • Susan Stone


  • Karen A. Recher

    Absolutely impressive!

  • Charlotte Norton


  • Love it so much, Ron. I can look at this pic forever. That face of the SEO is so beautiful, and the catch light on the vole with both his feet spread made it even more special. Good to see that you got it so sharp with 1/1000s incoming. Been looking for these guys for a long time and never had luck. Congratulations!

  • Wot, no picky self criticisms? About b time. And yes, this is an AMAZING image. Thank you – and I am so glad you have it on your wall to revell in.

  • It is a wonderful image. I’m so glad you made a large print of it. Seeing it almost daily will magnify the enjoyment you experience from this exceptional capture.

  • Debbie Trainer

    A masterpiece!

  • Jane Shipp

    It is truly a magnificent photograph. I don’t think I have ever seen a finer image.

  • Stunning! And a fave image of mine. 😀

  • Jo Ann Donnelly

    How beautiful, Ron!! No wonder it’s one of your favs!! So glad you decided to do a repeat. I fall more & more in love with all our raptures & after 2 seasons of watching the Berry Eagle nest, I’ve come to accept that “the circle of life” means some must die to provide food for others to live – and that includes us humans!!

  • Patty Chadwick

    The layers of soft color in the background, the luminous bird(outlined in light),the angle and spread of the wings, the intensity of the eyes, the overall composition of the shot and the big, fat super vole…perfection!!! On the wall, it must look like it’s flying right into the house!!! A startling effect. I’m jealous……!!!!

  • Dick Ashford

    Hi Ron,
    Wonderful image of a charismatic species! And it’s a reminder for me to think about packing – I will be on “walkabout” (in my own Outback, not the Australian one) in June. I have no itinerary, but I intend to use birds & birding as way markers and will swing through the Centennial Valley during my wanderings. I’m not a photographer, but I hope to capture some memories on my point-and-shoot. Maybe I’ll see this owl (or its descendants)!

    • Dick, I have a friend who’s on a “walkabout” in that general area right now. He’s scheduled 6 weeks for his trip throughout much of the west. What an adventure! I hope you have a wonderful time on yours but do go prepared. The Centennial Valley isn’t easy travel country but the rewards are certainly worth it.

      Tell my male SEO hello for me if you should see him…

  • No matter the format – thumbnail, medium-size internet image, large print – it’s simply a stunning image, Ron! And for you to have it where you can lay eyes on it as you wish and have all the memories associated with the encounter immediately recalled – well, that’s very special indeed!

    Us mere mortals just appreciate the fact you share your unique artistic abilities. Thank you!

  • Nancy Collins

    It certainly is a WOW shot! Congrats!

  • Dick Harlow

    I agree, wonderful, fantastic, sharp, clear, well positioned, etc., etc. Superb shot, no wonder you are proud of that shot. And, yes it is amazing how a shot can pop when it is on a larger print!
    But, Ron, this is not the only one you have that will pop out on canvas, many of your shots, too numerous to list here, I would love to see large and posted in a gallery!

    • “many of your shots, too numerous to list here, I would love to see large and posted in a gallery!”

      And I’d love to do just that, Dick. Unfortunately there are lots of image thieves out there that would love to lift them for their own purposes if I presented them at that size. I spend too much time sending out DMCA take-down notices and dealing with lawyers as it is…

      But thanks very much for the encouragement!

    • jeff

      Actually I agree with Dick, I would love to see many of your images properly printed and displayed in an art gallery!

  • Alison

    Thanks, Ron! I must say that I all your images that you post are my favorite images – this is certainly stunning. How many photographers can catch the eye-light in the living prey?! And as you said, the color is magnificent, too. As I haven’t written much recently, just want to say I still check in on your blog daily, though often on my iTouch. (Harder to enter feedback via a tiny handheld device! 🙂

  • These Short-eared owl images you captured Ron are amazing. I think that is how I first discovered your excellent photography talent. I keep saying to myself, “someday, I hope to see some Short-eared owls and get some images like Ron…”, well, I have seen a few Short eared owls just north of you in Utah, however, that was only the first part of the equation… my images were in low light with fleeting glimpses. I will keep dreaming though :-).

    • Ed, sadly I’ve noticed a sharp decline in Short-eared Owls the last few years. HawkWatch International is concerned enough about them that they’ve begun a study to hopefully determine what’s going on with them. I hope they can find a cause that can be addressed.

  • Jorge H. Oliveira

    Wow, I am glad you took that decision.
    It is a beautiful image and it deserves to be seen over and over again.
    Too bad we couldn’t see those 1200 pixels.
    Thanks for sharing.