Nov. 13, 2010,
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Canon EOS 7D
Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm)
I know we have owls in the woods in Central Ohio. I’ve seen stories in the paper about injured owls undergoing rehabilitation in local nature centers. Hikers have told me about owls they’ve watched. And I’ve seen photos by other photographers taken in the same parks I visit.
But after hundreds of miles hiking through the woods I have seen three owls and photographed two.
Chances are I’ve walked past owls without seeing them. They usually sleep during the day when I’m out with my camera and their feathers blend well with trees in the forest.
My closest encounter was with a massive Great Horned Owl that flew from a tree about 10 feet from my head as I exited the woods and walked into a clearing beside a lake. The owl flew across the lake and over a tree line before I could lift my camera.
The two I have photographed have both been Barred Owls, like the one in this photo. And this one was almost too easy.
I crested a hill on a trail and saw this owl about 30 feet away, sleeping on a limb almost at eye level. I grabbed a couple of shots and kept watching through the camera’s viewfinder in hopes of getting a photo with the owl’s eyes open. After a few minutes it opened one eye, then shut it. A few minutes later it opened both eyes and looked at me while I captured this shot. Then it went back to sleep.
Barred Owls are about 21 inches tall, about the same height as a Red-tailed Hawk. They have no ear tufts (unlike the Great Horned Owl or Eastern Screech-Owl also found in this area). Barred Owls roost quietly in the forest during the day and hunt at night, eating a variety of small animals (squirrels, chipmunks, mice, snakes, rabbits, birds). Their hooting call — described by bird sites as “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?” — can be heard occasionally during the day but is a common sound in forests at night.
Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.