I almost didn’t go shooting yesterday because birds have been slow but one of my mantras is “you never know unless you go”, so go I went. I’m very glad I did.
1/5000, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender
Here’s a scene I photograph all too often – the water splashes of a Pied-billed Grebe with a fish in its beak as it runs across the water with another grebe hot on its heels and with fish-thievery (kleptoparasitism) on its mind. It’s incredibly difficult to photograph the grebe with the fish because the action is so fast – finding that little feathered rocket in the viewfinder is hard enough but then you still have to lock focus on the bird before you get a decent shot. Usually all I get is a soft and/or clipped bird or a water trail like this one.
Sometimes I lock focus on the water trail before my lens even reaches the running bird.
1/4000, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in
When I caught up with this grebe I was able to get several sharp shots of the panicked bird skittering across the water. I love action shots like this, partly because they’re so hard to get. I’ve cropped the photo to include some of the water splashes which I think are important in illustrating the behavior.
Notice that this is a young bird. It still retains some of the juvenile markings under and behind its eye.
There wasn’t much else going on at the refuge so we decided to head for home. But within a couple of minutes of that decision I spotted something that blew me away – especially this time of year.
1/3200, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in
A Barn Owl out in the open and actively hunting in daylight (this photo was taken at 10:05 AM)!
It isn’t an unusual occurrence in the dead of winter when it’s very cold and there’s snow on the ground but this time of year it’s almost unheard of (temps were in the mid-40’s at the time and there was no snow). I believe late December is the earliest I’ve photographed Barn Owls hunting during daytime in the past. I saw the owl go after prey one time but it came up empty.
I have other images of this owl, including flight shots, that I’ll probably post in the near future but I still have to go through them so it’ll take some time.
I was delighted to see this owl but it also has me a little worried. Typically they only hunt this time of day when demands for food are high (extreme cold) and voles are hard to catch because of snow on the ground. I hope this isn’t a sign of a crash in the local vole population…