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It Has Been A Slow Year For Owls, At Least For Me

burrowing owl

I have been fascinated by butterflies and sunsets lately but let’s get back to what I love to photograph the most, birds. And owls are very near the top of the list of things I love to photograph. This year, however, has been slow for me in finding owls to photograph and observe. I have come across a couple short eared owls and a small handful of burrowing owls but it hasn’t been the banner type of year last year seemed to be for me.

burrowing owl
A burrowing owl posing for a portrait on an old wooden fence post.

A couple weeks ago I did come across a small group of burrowing owls. It was in a location of a known nest so I can only assume it was the family of owls which resided in the roadside burrow. It is interesting to note I see a definite time of day when I do see burrowing owls the most frequent and that is early morning and late evening. Not really a surprise as most animals tend to shy away from the heat of the day when it is this blistering hot. On this particular day I was having almost no luck finding any owls to speak of until about 30 minutes before the sun set. The roads I was driving on for the past 2 hours all of a sudden came alive with life. Birds of all kinds seemingly came out of the proverbial woodwork to take advantage of the cooler temperatures and impending shade.

burrowing owl
Burrowing owls have been a little harder to find this year for some reason.

The downside to this is I was up against the clock to get a few images for my efforts. Me and the sun were deadlocked in a heated battle of which I knew my time would soon be up. I drove up and down the deserted country roads hoping for a close encounter of a burrowing owl gracious enough to allow its portrait to be taken. I am always amazed at how well most of them seem to sit for a photographer. I wish short eared owls would be as friendly as the burrowing owl as they seem to be short with their patience for us photogs hoping to capture their beauty on film.

burrowing owl
A burrowing owl giving me a slightly different pose.

I was able to get a few images of the burrowing owl, one of which on an old wooden fence post which I prefer over the metal t-posts used on many of the fences where I search for owls. I still haven’t captured my ideal owl image yet, at least for the burrowing owl that is. I seem to get great images but none yet on the preferred perch. I will keep looking and enjoy the time spent out photographing owls and the rest of what nature has to offer.

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A Burrowing Owl On The Hunt

burrowing owl with a vole

Ok, I have to admit I am rather proud of these images of a burrowing owl after a couple of successful hunts. It is quite hard to catch them with prey, at least for me it has been, so having the opportunity to get a few great images of a burrowing owl with prey, in this case I think it is a vole, is a dream come true for me.

burrowing owl with a vole
A burrowing owl after a successful hunt.

Patience is the key to great bird photography. Some days I have it and some days I too am found being frustrated things just aren’t happening like I want. With nature, however, the outdoor photographer has to be patient and very observant and take what nature gives him. I had no idea on this day I would find a burrowing owl with prey but I kept being vigilant in my efforts to find an owl to photograph and it turned out the several hours of driving around searching for this predator paid off in a big way for me.

burrowing owl with a vole
Returning to feed its young this burrowing owl stops for a minute before heading to the nest.

When I teach photography seminars I stress the importance of being ready and knowing ones camera and settings. This is vital. Opportunities such as these are rare and come and go quickly. The outdoor photographer has to be ready to take the shot with the right camera settings or he will miss the image of a lifetime. Each subject or setting has different camera setting requirements such as bird photography, sunsets or photographing waterfalls, for example. Even within each situation the changing light may even cause one to need to change a few settings quickly or lose the shot so one has to be pretty comfortable with the camera and how the change settings back and forth. This comes from experience and practice. Lots and lots of practice but going out photographing things in nature is one of the most relaxing things I have ever done so even though it is practice it is quite enjoyable.

burrowing owl with a vole
Another successful hunt for this burrowing owl.

I don’t know when or even if may ever get the opportunity to photograph and observe burrowing owls with prey again. It was quite a remarkable moment for me to witness. Owls fascinate me, as do all birds, but on this day finding and photographing such a rare moment in the life of a burrowing owl was a remarkable experience I will always remember and cherish.

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Another Burrowing Owl And My Least Favorite Kind Of Light

burrowing owl

I am in owl mode. I love them so this time of year I go and look for owls to photograph any chance I get. Burrowing owls are fairly easy to find and photograph so they are a common subject for me. Typically when I go out in search of owls it is late in the day, early afternoon so the sun isn’t in the best of spots for the location I tend to frequent. I always try to get front lighting on my subjects so it shows the most available detail and color but sometimes I have to be satisfied with what mother nature gives me. This recent image of a burrowing owl is a great example. The amount and angle of light was great but was coming from the wrong direction, directly behind the owl giving it back lighting. Other images I have shot have not turned out as well on birds with back lighting but this one turned out rather well. It still gave lots of color and detail to the owl despite not having direct light on its face and front feather. I will always prefer front or even side lighting as opposed to back lighting when photographing birds but sometimes I am pleased with the results like I am with this one.

burrowing owl
A burrowing owl with some back light.
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My First Burrowing Owl Of The Year And That Pesky Metal Post

burrowing owl on a metal fence post

As most of my followers probably know by now I am not a fan of metal fence posts in wildlife photographs. I prefer a more natural look with a bird on a natural perch or even an old wooden fence post but when a golden opportunity arises to photograph ones first burrowing owl of the year you take it no matter what the owl is sitting one. This image is my first burrowing owl for 2017. To me it is a superb shot, very clean background with a soft color. Both things I really strive for in portrait style shots with birds. It gives all the attention to the owl where it should be. In fact, the only thing I would change about this image is that pesky metal fence post which seems to be a common sight for me lately when photographing birds. Not a deal breaker by any means when one gets a shot like this but it does leave something to strive for as this photographer is still in search of the perfect owl image on an old fence post.

burrowing owl on a metal fence post
A burrowing owl on a metal fence post.