The Moonlit Wings...
... reflect the stars that guide me towards salvation.
For those that don't know... I LOVE OWLS!!! They are by far my favorite animal to try to photograph. I love the challenge of finding them in the daylight. I love the challenge of getting to an area where you can get a clean image of them without getting too close and disturbing them. I love the look in their eyes that almost says "Yeah, you found me... now what!" Here are some of the stories of some of my favorite owl hunts.
The first owl I photographed was totally by chance. There is a place near my school called "Buckner Educational Wetlands." It is a wonderful wooded area with a marsh in the middle. You can find shore birds, waterfowl, and songbirds all in the same area. I like to drive out there for a quick visit whenever I can. On November 5th, 2014, I was walking along the trail when I heard a huge commotion being made by some Blue Jays. I followed the ruckus, only to be staring face-to-face with a Great Horned Owl. It was AMAZING. He just sat there, and stared at me. I slowly raised my camera and took some shots, then turned and walked away. Over the years I've seen what I believe to be the same owl there several times. Once he was eating a dove. Once I even caught him drinking. It was an amazing experience. Sadly, I haven't seen him for about 6 months now and am worried that he might have moved on. Here are some photos.
Using a website has helped me track down several owls around my home. One of my most interesting finds was a Barn Owl family that was nesting in a drain from the roof of an elementary school. Mom and Dad and 3 young owlets all in one pipe. It was much more difficult to photograph them as they would like to hide way back in the pipe and only came out at night. Patience and practice paid off though, as I finally got a decent shot.
My wife and I like to go to Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge to look for birds. While we are there, we almost always find an owl somewhere. We have found both Great Horned Owls and Barred Owls there, but Barred are more common. We also have been able to find what we believe to be the same Barred Owl in roughly the same area numerous times. Here are some shots of owls spotted at Loess Bluffs.
In March of 2016, I received a Facebook message from a friend who was letting me know of a rare Snowy Owl still hanging around an airport in rural Kansas. I convinced my wife it would be AWESOME and so off we went. It was about a two hour drive from our house, but it was so worth it. We don't get Snowy Owls in Missouri very often, so I'm so glad that I made this trip and got to capture some images of it. We pulled into the parking lot and we could see it's white head just poking out above a rock pile. It seemed to be resting, so we stayed in our car, re-positioned, and took photographs out of the windows. I like to be very careful when I'm photographing owls so that I don't disturb them. We stayed over 50 yards away, so the images aren't great, but the owl wasn't stressed, and that's the most important part.
We took a family trip to the Black Hills in the summer of 2016. One of my major goals was to find and photograph a Burrowing Owl. I knew of several places in Badlands National Park where they had been seen recently and planned out a route that would get us to those areas. It was a HARD hunt! I didn't quite realize how tiny they were, and how good they were at hiding in the grass and in gopher holes. After nearly an hour of trying though, we did find some. We were lucky we didn't get rear-ended though when I slammed on the breaks and swerved to the shoulder so that I could get out and photograph them!
One of the hardest owls for me to find was the Short-eared Owl. They are only out in the daylight for a little while before sunset. During the day they are almost never visible. When I learned of an area where there were some present, I had to go try. It was actually the afternoon of a school snow day, and my wife was very worried about me driving on snowy roads (sometimes I think she forgets that I grew up in South Dakota... snow is in my blood!). She made me promise to call her when I arrived. As I turned onto the dirt road that would lead to the field I was going to be looking in, I quickly dialed her cell number. As she answered, a Short-eared Owl landed on a fence post, 15 feet from me. I quickly told my wife, "I'm here, and there's owls... bye" and hung up. Not very loving I know, but I think she forgave me. There were three Short-eared Owls, and they posed for some very nice shots.
Upon arriving in South Dakota for Thanksgiving in 2017, I was alerted to the presence of two Snowy Owls. I was so excited to go capture some images, that I almost left the house without my camera! I found them right where the report said they would be, and in fact I found them there for three straight days. I even brought my family out the second day to view them with me. Here are some of the best shots that i got.
There are several more owls that I would like to add, as well as adding some better images of some of them. I'm very happy with what I've seen so far, and even if I never see another owl, I'll always remember the hunts that they have led me on.
Song: Africa by Toto