Miguel and I have been trying to get some better in-flight shots of the Short-eared Owls that use the wet prairies at BK Leach CA for their winter homes. Tonight, preparations and fortune came together and we wound up with a few that we can be satisfied with. The lighting wasn’t great, as the nice sunlight was blocked by heavier and heavier clouds as soon as the action began, but sometimes you take what you can get.
A huge thank you to Danny Brown, without whom I most likely would have stayed at zero Snowy Owls for the great Snowy irruption of the 2017/2018 winter. Because of travel and just poor luck, I had missed out on finding the Snowy Owls that had salted the state this winter and would never have imagined that we would have another chance a week into April. But, since the weather to date suggests little of spring, I suppose we should have not been too surprised.
The birding on Saturday was seemingly great everywhere and Steve, I and others were having good luck finding interesting species at RMBS when we received the messages from our phones about Danny’s find. I think Steve and I would have been satisfied with our usual views from a football’s field or two away, but were ecstatic to find the bird perched at an optimal viewing distance, resting after a nice meal that others had documented earlier in the day.
We left the bird still on its perch shortly after sunset. On the way out of the conservation area we had a Short-eared Owl and American Bittern flyovers. Thanks again, Danny.
For the first time since junior high I did not watch a single down or minute of the NFL this season and I couldn’t be happier for it. Rape my town three times, NFL – shame on you. I’ve been pleased to get those precious free minutes back for my Sundays, several of which I found I could spend not dreading the upcoming workweek.
When the forecast showed a near perfect meteorological condition for shooting the Short-eared Owls of BK Leach, I figured this could be promising. While most other naked apes with functioning vision would be in front of the picture box and ingesting mass quantities of wings and beer, I would enjoy the warm and lightly breezy evening in my own kind of chair with friends of a different sort.
Of course there is never a sure thing. Often, when I have expected the best due to light and temperature, the owls don’t show where I set myself. On this particular day, all conditions came together and I had a super time.
I want to give huge thanks for my lovely and talented wife, Sarah, for the special help she gave me this season in getting my best to date SEOW in flight shots.
A perfect day ended in the perfect way – with a great sunset on the Lincoln Hills.
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.
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.
And then we have the indifferent SEOW…
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wow. I’ve been looking for an evening like this for a number of years. I have heard and read that Short-eared Owls will often start their night early and often will often be up and active with several hours of day left. I have seen them before at dusk, right before sunset, but last night at B.K. Leach C.A. we had several on the move with almost two hours of light left. We were able to count a minimum of eight SEOW, but there may have been more. Immediately before sunset I was able to observe somewhere between 25-30 Northern Harriers along with the owls. It was quite a treat, listening to the Owl’s peculiar barks and screams as they were dog-fighting with the other owls and the Harriers who were looking for their spots to spend the night.
Many thanks to Connie and Jo Alwood who turned me on to this Virginia Rail they were watching this spring at BK Leach Conservation Area. The midday light was poor for photography, but the bird was cooperative as it hunted among the cattails. A couple of weeks later Sarah and I made a visit to BK Leach and found even more great rail habitat. We were able to watch three more Virginia Rails and of course I left the camera at home…
Please have a look at Jo Alwood’s YouTube Channel. I find it to be a treasure of Missouri wildlife documentary that ranks up there with the likes of Charles and Elizabeth Schwartz and Marty Stouffer.