The rest of the story.

Two days ago I posted a single photo of a young Short-eared Owl rotating ‘his’ head to an extreme angle while he was using motion parallax to pinpoint where the sound of my clicking camera was coming from. At the time I said that I’d post more photos of him when I’d had the opportunity to review and process more of my images. Today I’m keeping that promise as I tell more of the story.

All photos are presented in the order they were taken.

It all started out with me doing something pretty unusual for me. As I approached the spot where I’d cut Galileo, the fledgling Short-eared Owl, out of a barbed wire fence six years ago I decided to stop at that location and relive the experience (don’t ask me why. I couldn’t give you a logical answer). From where I stopped, the patch in the barbed wire was only a few feet outside my pickup window and the sagebrush that one of Gaileo’s parents had been perched in as it watched it’s offspring hanging from the wire was about 40′ in front of my pickup.

Suddenly, just as my pickup was rocking back to a full stop, two Short-eared Owls flew out of the sagebrush right in front of me, the one that Galileo’s parent had been in six years ago. I believe both owls were recent fledglings. I know one of them was because I spent the next 14 minutes with him. The other one flew much further away.

 

1000, f/5.6, ISO 1600, Canon R5, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

But this guy landed at the base of an old woodpile that was reasonably close to me. The woodpile was strongly backlit but the young owl was in shade in front of it so I still managed to get some pretty decent photos. But I knew that action shots would be a problem because I didn’t have much shutter speed, even after cranking my ISO up to 1600.

 

 

1000, f/5.6, ISO 1600, Canon R5, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

He was young enough to still be pretty clumsy so when he shook his feathers (roused) after preening he nearly fell off his perch.

 

 

1250, f/5.6, ISO 1600, Canon R5, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

He was completely calm and relaxed in my presence but man, was he ever curious about me and about the shutter sounds coming from my camera. During the time I spent with him he was paralaxing in my direction much of the time. He’d rotate his head one way and then…

 

 

1250, f/5.6, ISO 1600, Canon R5, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

the other.

Suddenly I saw his attention go to something behind me.

 

 

1250, f/5.6, ISO 1600, Canon R5, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

It was one of his parents coming in to check up on him. Now you see how strongly backlit the scene was.

 

 

1600, f/5.6, ISO 1600, Canon R5, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

The adult landed near the top of the woodpile and behind the youngster.

 

 

1000, f/5.6, ISO 1600, Canon R5, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

I barely had enough room in the frame to avoid cutting off body parts of one or both birds. The adult was strongly backlit so I spent most of my time photographing the youngster.

 

 

1250, f/5.6, ISO 1600, Canon R5, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

This is the photo I posted two days ago. Today I’m going to do something I probably should have done then.

Here his head is almost completely upside down and quite a few readers said that they had a hard time seeing that. For example, one commenter on Facebook said she “thought that was a horn in the middle of his forehead”, implying that his head looked right side up, just different. Others made somewhat similar comments.

 

 

So, here’s the same image, rotated 180°, with the bird upside down but his head right side up. Kinda changes the perspective, doesn’t it.

Not long after this photo was taken he turned around on his perch, faced the other way, and kept staring at the sagebrush in front of me, the one he’d been perched in a few minutes earlier. I began to wonder if he was going to fly back to the sagebrush.

 

 

1250, f/5.6, ISO 1600, Canon R5, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

When he stretched his left wing while staring at the sagebrush I became convinced that’s exactly what he was going to do. But if and when he did, I knew I’d be screwed because I didn’t have enough shutter speed to get him sharp in flight and I was probably too close to him to avoid cutting off body parts with his wings out.

 

 

1250, f/5.6, ISO 1600, Canon R5, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

I was right on both counts. The bird is soft and I clipped a wing but at least this shot documents that he took off in the direction of the sagebrush.

 

 

Before I drove forward toward the sagebrush to see if I could locate him again, I took a quick photo of the patch in the barbed wire I had to cut six years earlier in order to get Galileo off of the barbed wire. I guess I wanted to document how close I was to the site of Galileo’s terrible predicament.

 

 

1600, f/5.6, ISO 1600, Canon R5, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

Here’s the youngster, back in the sagebrush he and his sibling flew out of a few minutes earlier. At this point I figured I’d spent more than enough time with him and I should leave him in peace, so I drove down the road to look for other birds. When I returned about 90 minutes later, I couldn’t find hide nor feather of any of the three owls.

All morning I was struck by how unusual it was to find the family of owls in the same place we found Galileo and his parent six years earlier, especially in such a vast landscape.

Just goes to show, what goes around comes around.

Ron

 

Notes:

  • Today Galileo is an education bird for HawkWatch International. Even after months in rehab his wing was too damaged by the barbed wire for him to be released back into the wild. HWI named him Galileo. I visit him occasionally at HWI, at least I did before the pandemic.
  • I could tell by the behavior of both owls that I wasn’t making them nervous or stressing them. If I had noticed signs of nervousness I’d have left immediately. For example, both owls spent significant time preening on the woodpile, which they don’t do when they’re nervous.

 

Autor Ron Dudley

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JessicaGG
Journalist specialized in online marketing as Social Media Manager. I help professionals and companies to become more Internet and online reputation, which allows to give life to the Social Media Strategies defined for the Company, and thus immortalize brands, products and services. I have participated as an exhibitor in various forums nationally and internationally, I am the author of several articles in digital magazines and Blogs.

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