I may have never photographed a Short-eared Owl in light more dim than this so I’m surprised to have ended up liking these photos very much.
1/400, f/9, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in
We found this male Short-eared Owl hunting from a large wooden post on June 2, 2016. Technically we were in Idaho but it was only about a mile from the Montana border.
It was just after dawn with a heavy overcast so as you can see from my image techs the light was abysmal. I deliberately underexposed this shot to get just a bit more shutter speed.
He was calm and accepting of my presence, probably at least in part because of the very low light, and he spent most of his time scanning the nearby grasses and brush for prey. I love the detail here, including but not limited to the “fringing” on the feathers behind the tip of the right wing. That fringing is largely responsible for the “silent flight” of owls.
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 flew down and pounced on a nearby brush pile – obviously after prey he’d seen but he came up empty. He stayed here for a while and then flew a few feet further away and continued to hunt. At that point I left him in pursuit of better light and other birds.
While I was taking these shots I remember thinking I’d probably delete them all because of the extremely poor light. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I seldom photograph Burrowing Owls on Antelope Island anymore. Most of their burrows are too far from the roads, the light angles are bad for morning photography and I will not approach their burrows on foot. Mostly I just observe them from a distance and enjoy the fact that they’re there.
1/4000, f/5.6, ISO 400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in
So it was a surprise to find this one fairly close to the road and in good light yesterday morning (it even chose a spot where I could include a few pretty flowers in the setting).
1/2500, f/7.1, ISO 400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in
And I was happy to see it wasn’t banded.
Our weather pattern has been so gloomy and dismal for so long that I’ve done very little shooting but yesterday when a brief “sucker hole” appeared in the clouds I headed for the island (a 50 minute drive for me) to see if I’d get lucky with light. I was there for 2 1/2 hours and only had light for about thirty minutes but thankfully I photographed this owl in that brief window. It never happens that way!
Sadly I don’t think this owl will be in the burrow it has recently chosen for long. That burrow is waaaay too close to the road and as soon as it is “discovered” by the public the bird will be pressured too much and I’m sure it’ll be abandoned. That’s exactly what happened a few years ago when other Burrowing Owls occupied this burrow.
As a park employee once told me, this is what happens when these owls are “loved to death”.