Winter of the Short-eared

I have shared images and discussed the Short-eared Owl on a number of previous blog posts.  Never did I imagine the “storm” that the “winter” of 2015/2016 was to bring.  On many different trips to a few different places, I along with my partners Sarah and Steve, were fortunate to have great looks at great numbers of these fluffy fascinations in feathers.  I can’t say for certain if this winter in this region was abnormal for hosting a greater than average number of SEOW, or if my observational skills have just improved, but it certainly seemed easier than in past years to find and watch these birds.  I’ve just finished putting together a video with some video clips and highlight images that I wanted to share. Without further ado, here you are…

Oh, the challenges video brings to an inexperienced, unprepared and poorly equipped photographer.  Throw in the fact that these birds are utterly unpredictable and it’s hard to believe I was able to capture what I did.  So, I learn and take notes and hopefully improve next year.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

Other than the simians, is there another species easier to anthropomorphize?  Here we have cute and inquisitive SEOW, followed mere seconds later by the evil, harbinger of doom SEOW of which early writers told.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

And then we have the indifferent SEOW…

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

Okay, I’ll stop now before they take my biologist card away from me…
Although I got a few images, I struggled mightily and missed several great opportunities at capturing SEOW in flight this season.  The randomness of the encounters coupled with challenges with lighting and equipment make this a true challenge.  Funnily, one of my better in-flight photographs was taken with a setting sun at the bird’s back – not the best opportunity…

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

The image below was taken with the sun in a better position.  Notice the catch light, which suggests that the bird was up and in flight with the sun still in the sky.  Something else in this photo that I noticed before is the difference in dilatation of the lit pupil compared to the pupil of the shaded eye.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

Below is a flight shot from a further distance.  I liked the warm light of the golden hour, painting the dead prairie vegetation in fire.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

One night Steve and I were fortunate to have an owl perch close to our car well into dusk.  It then left its perch and landed nearby in the vegetation.  We could not tell if it was after a prey or decided to go back to bed, as it sat there for the short remainder of the day.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

The final image I am sharing here is just to show off those feather-covered legs.  A great adaptation for the cold climates in which these birds are found.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

-OZB

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