Ground Hunting Short-eared Owl (nine image series)

Not hunting for ground, hunting from the ground rather than on the wing.

In June two summers ago I had a very special experience with a (probable) male Short-eared Owl near the border of southwest Montana and Idaho (all images below documenting the experience are presented in the order they were taken).

 

1/250, f/9, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

Readers will likely recognize the owl on this perch because I posted a different image of him ten days ago. I’m only including this photo to provide context and to help me tell the story. The light was extremely low that early morning (more dark than light) because the sun still wasn’t up over a nearby mountain to the east and we were in deep shade before actual sunrise. He was actively scanning for prey from the post and after just a few moments he completely ignored my presence (in my pickup of course).

He would scan in all directions as he looked and listened for small mammal prey in the lush grasses and brush. After a short time he located something of interest (most likely a meadow vole) near a small pile of twigs…

 

 

1/400, f/7.1, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

and flew down to the ground very close to me to investigate. Here he’s still walking up to the spot of interest.

 

 

1/400, f/7.1, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

And then he froze as he concentrated on that spot with an intensity that was almost palpable. He held this position for some time but whatever critter had been at the base of the brush pile had apparently made its escape into the pile or down a burrow.

 

 

1/640, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

But as he slowly walked away he kept looking back at that same spot.

 

 

1/640, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

Eventually he started scanning for prey in other directions…

 

 

1/640, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

But his concentration kept going back to that same spot at the base of the brush pile. He was absolutely intrigued by something he’d apparently heard there that got away. I remember thinking how fortunate I was to not be a vole that morning. This owl was an incredibly honed hunting machine and I sure wouldn’t want to be in his crosshairs.

 

 

1/800, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

But eventually he gave up. He looked up at me one last time to make sure I wasn’t up to no good…

 

 

1/800, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

and then took off away from me…

 

 

1/320, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

to land on a slightly elevated perch a little further away and resume his hunting. At that point I drove away to look for other birds in the nearby Centennial Valley and away from the shade of the mountain. He was still hunting from this perch when I left.

I felt privileged to have been allowed this intimate look into the secret life of such a skilled and dedicated hunter, especially in the near-darkness. I thought my readers would enjoy it too.

Ron

 

 

34 comments to Ground Hunting Short-eared Owl (nine image series)

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>