A Harassed Grebe And A Barn Owl Yesterday Morning At Farmington

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.


pied-billed-grebe-water-splashes-9901b-ron-dudley1/5000, 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…




Landing Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk

Blog followers know I have a strong aversion for power poles and wires in my images. But thanks to input from readers I’ve had a change of heart when the poles are ancient and the insulators are the old-fashioned kind.


red-tailed-hawk-4226b-ron-dudley1/3200, f/6.3, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

I photographed this juvenile in mid-September in Clark County, Idaho just as it touched down on the old pole. I have a strong attraction for photos of landing raptors because they’re hard to get and as a result we don’t see many of them. I like the timing of this shot and the nice light on most of the ventral surfaces of the bird. For me there’s just enough light in the eye for the image to work and I think the missing insulator only adds to the appeal because of its implication of age.

Regular readers know I’ve despised poles and wires in my images from the get-go and some of you have given me grief for my pickiness. To be honest the only reason I was even photographing these hawks on the poles was so I could get them in flight just before landing or just after takeoff (I could  crop out the poles if I had to). But these particular poles are ancient and weathered and the insulators are the old-fashioned kind so I gritted my teeth and posted a shot of a red-tail landing on a different but similar pole a couple of months ago. Friend Jerry Liguori pointed out that these very old poles are abandoned railroad poles carrying low voltage signal lines (there were RR tracks adjacent to them) and other readers noted that the insulators are antique collectibles.

Since that time my images of this bird and others on the poles have grown on me. A lot. To the point that I actually cropped this image to feature the pole, crossbeam and insulators (the bird is fairly small in the frame and I’ve cropped to the end of the beam). Without input from readers I’d have probably kept this image but it never would have seen the light of day.

Don’t tell me you can’t teach an old dog (or an old photographer) new tricks!


Note: Sharp-eyed readers may notice that this hawk is probably the same bird as the one in the linked post in my text.