Sometimes it can be difficult

A barred owl (Strix varia) watching me from its perch in a tree (2010_01_12_048666)

Ever tried to sneak up on an owl?  Keep in mind these mystical creatures are masters of silence.  Evolution gifted them with keen hearing, something afforded them by the recognizable shape of their head and face, a shape that funnels sound to their ears.

So imagine trying to sneak up on a pair of them when the forest is thick and the understory clogged with bamboo and brush.  Let’s just say it doesn’t work too well.

But after the pair of barred owls (Strix varia) moved in a few years ago[1], I focused on trying to get close for some photos.  The great horned owl (Bubo virginianus) who lives across the floodplain is even more difficult given it sleeps on one of many islands within the bay’s confluence—areas I have no access to—yet the barred owls are near, in a place visible from my patio, so I should be able to get some images, right?  Not!

They sleep, nest, brood and raise young at the juncture of public land and official park territory: essentially, they either roost in dense woods or on land I can’t legally enter without permission[2].  Very frustrating!

Still, this is one of them.  One of the two, I mean.  I can’t say which.  Mommy or Daddy.  Take your pick.

Trying to get close was an exercise in futility.  The owl heard me coming long before I realized it was there.  You can see it had already set its eyes upon me as I scrambled through brambles and thickets trying to locate them[3].

I suspect the other had long since evacuated given the riotous din I created as I clamored and fought my way through what is essentially an impassable area.  I really thought I was being sneaky.

Lesson to self: Gosh darn it, work on that silence thing!

So while I study up on my ninja stealth techniques so I can wind my way through impenetrable barriers without making a noise, why don’t you go take a look at some other goodies…

Friday Ark #279: What can I say.  Steve has all the energy in the world when it comes to finding the best on the web each week.  Wanna see dogs?  Cats?  Birds?  Everything else under the sun?  Head on over and see who’s enjoying a leisurely expedition on the ark this week.

I and the Bird #117: I can only say Seabrooke’s creativity astounds me.  She put together the most brilliant yet simple presentation for this carnival.  If you love birds, you’ll want to visit, but please don’t forget to comment on her exceptionally creative effort.  I can’t imagine reaching that level of awe…

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[1] Barred owls have been at White Rock Lake as long as I can remember (that’s measured in decades).  And though I can always remember their singularly recognizable call, this pair is the first one that I have located and monitored.  They’re not the first and not the last, but they’re the two I can identify and locate.

[2] I can get permission to be on the city’s property.  I’ve just never done so before.  More and more I think I should delve into the opportunities afforded by asking.

[3] Though I hadn’t seen either owl prior to this photo, the moment I looked up and realized it was watching me, I snapped this picture and retreated.  They needed to sleep.  I was being intrusive and disruptive.  Seeing how obvious I’d been told me I’d long since passed the point of acceptable observation.  Silliness aside, trying to photograph them will hinge entirely on me being able to do so without bothering them.

5 thoughts on “Sometimes it can be difficult”

  1. I was lucky enough to come across a sleepy Barred Owl once, without even leaving the path. He was perched on a low branch and did not seem bothered by my presence in the least. I ended up walking away from him, which almost never happens. Usually, I take pictures while I can, before the subject flees or moves into cover.

    I hope you explore the city property – would be great to see what new and interesting creatures you may find there!

    1. I work the same way, Amber: usually when I see something, I start taking photos immediately based on the assumption that whatever I’m watching will seek better cover. In this case, though, I felt rather intrusive because it was late in the morning and the owl was staring right at me when I saw it. Made me think I was responsible for keeping it awake. Sadly, this pair stays in pretty dense cover with no trails–at least from the public side of the park. Maybe there’s a better view of their roost from the city’s property. (Keeping fingers crossed that they’ll let me back there…)

  2. You two don’t fool me – I bet the first thing you do when you see one is start phishing to get a better shot 🙂

    Spectacular photograph. The fact that it is slightly obstructed actually helps the composition – makes it seem as if the owl is actually peering out at you from its hiding place.

    1. Thank you, Ted. I’m with you and Amber: Though I always want to grab a clear photo to show the subject for identifications purposes, I’m growing increasingly fond of the natural history moments that often result from capturing a less than “technically perfect” image.

      And you’re too funny! No, I don’t use pishing; I go with rock throwing since I know it works every single time–and it works on more than birds. You should see the diversity of wildlife that gets flushed when a barrage of heavy stones comes flying in. 😉

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