Posts from the Past – Owls

I am traveling again so because I am short on time to do up posts that will publish while I am away I thought I would do a sort of “throwback” to old posts that some of you might not have seen.

Today I am focusing on older posts that have owls in them starting with Great Horned Owls:

Great Horned Owl pair


A Pair of Great Horned Owls in Montana 

This mated pair of Great Horned Owls were resting in the opening of an old granary in Glacier County, Montana when I photographed them in June of 2009.

To see this post please click here or click on the image to the left.



Short-eared Owls:

Female Short-eared Owl staring


Short-eared Owl female – 13 minutes of Joy

All I had was 13 minutes with this beautiful Short-eared Owl but those thirteen minutes brought me tremendous joy. Before the sun had burned off the misty fog the Short-eared Owl flew away into the mists and became for me a creature as ephemeral as the lake fog itself.

To see this post please click here or click on the image to the left.


Barn Owls:

Barn Owl in flight


Barn Owls and Harsh Winters

Barn Owls are typically strictly nocturnal but during harsh winters with lots of snow they do hunt during the day here in Utah. It has been bitter cold for some time now and we have had lots of snow falling during recent storms and that snow makes it difficult for Barn Owls to find their prey.

To see this post please click here or click on the image to the left.


Burrowing Owls:

Burrowing Owl chick



Juvenile Burrowing Owl in Utah

Who could resist these Burrowing Owl chicks? Not me.

To see this post please click here or click on the image to the left.


I hope that you enjoy these owl posts from the past.


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On The Road Again

Dark morph Swainson's Hawk lifting off from a Montana hillsideDark morph Swainson’s Hawk lifting off from a Montana hillside – Nikon D7100, f6.3, 1/3200, ISO 500, +1.0 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Yes, I am wandering again. Leaving this morning actually. I am not sure whether I’ll photograph primarily in Montana or Idaho or I might even end up photographing in both places equally. I never know what treasures I will find or if I will be taking wildlife, scenic or bird images but that is part of the fun. What I do know is that I’ll relax and focus on nature and for me that is crucial for my well being.

I have scheduled posts to be published while I am away but I might end up doing some posts from the field too if I have a good cell signal.


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American Kestrel lift off

Male American Kestrel lift offMale American Kestrel lift off – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 328mm, natural light, not baited

American Kestrels are a challenge to photograph when they are in flight or lifting off because they move so quickly and in low light it can be even harder. This male kestrel had been perched on a pole at Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area when I noticed that it was about to lift off so I was ready when it did. Even though the light was low due to fog I was able to obtain enough shutter speed to capture the moment just before his feet left the pole.

I would have preferred a blue sky background with a few fluffy clouds but photographing in low light conditions does test my skills and abilities and I enjoy that.


This image was taken in 2010.

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Move a little – Red-breasted Merganser

Resting Red-breasted MerganserResting Red-breasted Merganser – Nikon D200, handheld, f7.1, 1/320, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm

Moving; even just a little bit, can change the background of an image even when the subject is stationary. One May morning I spotted a Red-breasted Merganser resting on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico at Fort De Soto, Florida and I knew I had to photograph it. The merganser wasn’t bothered when I slowly belly crawled up to it in the wet sand but after taking quite a few images of the merganser I wanted something different in the background besides the incoming waves. This image was taken looking due west.

Red-breasted Merganser taking a rest on the Gulf shoreRed-breasted Merganser taking a rest on the Gulf shore - Nikon D200, handheld, f8, 1/500, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 370mm

So I belly crawled into a slightly different location where I could view the bird looking southwest and started photographing the Red-breasted Merganser again. Completely different background and completely different look.

I learned if I didn’t like the background or wanted a different look I could just move a little.


Another post about this same Red-breasted Merganser is here. See how the background changed because of the waves?

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Black Skimmers – Highly gregarious and unmistakable

Flock of Black Skimmers in flightFlock of Black Skimmers in flight over Fort De Soto’s north beach – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/2000, ISO 250, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 170mm, natural light

Black Skimmers  are beautiful and unmistakable, with their long orange/red black tipped bill, white underparts, blackish upper parts and distinctive barking (yip or yep) call, there is no other coastal water bird in North America that looks anything like them. There also isn’t another water bird in North America that feeds like they do.

Black Skimmer SkimmingBlack Skimmer adults skimming – Nikon D200, f5.6, 1/800, ISO 160, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

The Black Skimmer’s bill has an unusual shape, it is long and thin, the lower mandible is noticeably longer than the upper maxilla. When they are feeding the black skimmer’s lower bill skims the water surface and slices through the water, when the bird senses prey with the lower bill the upper bill snaps shut capturing the prey. Black skimmers usual eat small fish though they may also take small crustaceans. Skimmers are active during the day but they are also successful hunters during the night.

Black Skimmer adult on beachAdult Black Skimmer calling - Nikon D200, handheld while laying in the sand, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

Photographing Black Skimmers can be very challenging because of the high contrast of the whites, darks and reds. Additionally their long narrow body shape when resting on the ground can present difficulties with composition.

The dark feathers on the upper part normally have some brown tones while the nape and head appear black. The adult skimmer in the image above is in breeding plumage, in nonbreeding plumage there is an area above the shoulder to the back of the head that will be white. The male is slightly larger than the female and has a slightly longer bill. The wingspan is about 44 inches.

Black Skimmer juvenileJuvenile Black Skimmer – Nikon D200, handheld while laying in the sand, f9, 1/500, ISO 160, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 330mm, natural light

Juvenile Black Skimmers have the same shape as adults, their bills are shorter and duller. Juveniles have brown mottled feathers on their backs which reminds me of the pattern of herringbone. The juvenile above was capable of flight though it appeared to prefer staying on the beach and having the adults feed it instead of foraging for itself at this age.

Black Skimmer in flight Adult Black Skimmer in flight – Nikon D200, handheld, f5.6, 1/2000, ISO 250, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400m, natural light

Skimmers are graceful in flight, their wing movements are buoyant. Even from a long distance their flight pattern can be used to identify them. During mating season there can be exciting aerial displays between males.

Highly gregarious skimmers are often seen in large flocks and nest in colonies. If you sit quietly on the beach before dawn you may be able to hear a flock of skimmers coming in from a night of feeding or see them fly into shore in the pale light of dawn, either one an experience you won’t soon forget.


Images created in 2008 and 2009

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