Owls

Watching the hunt

I spent a bit of time with a great gray owl last week. It was later in the evening and it seemed to be looking for a last snack before dark.

I watched it crisscross a meadow of tall grass and make several dives out of sight. It came up without a catch on those.

Apparently, it felt like a change of location was required. Crossing the road she landed on a couple of old fenceposts and stared hard into the adjacent little fields but didn’t find a target worth chasing.

Success came when she flew out of a tall tree she had spent a few minutes surveying from. When she launched, it was a drop to just above the grass and then a sudden drop.

She swallowed while low in the grass and then rose out and flew towards me before alighting on a post right beside me. A couple of minutes later she went across another field and out of sight.


Those eyes…

We had two wonderful encounters with great gray owls yesterday. The highlight for me came when the second owl flew across the field to a tall post about 30′ away. I took some good flight shots there. Then he glided down and landed 2′ away on a fence post beside me. When he was there, it was incredible to share the space. Being that close I was awed by the power and wisdom that I felt from him.

He stayed there for around 10 minutes before I moved further down the fence. The wind picked up as the clouds covered the sun. The owl remained focused on finding dinner in the long grass but after several more minutes, with his feathers whipping around, he flew off into the trees.


Flaring to land

This great gray owl dove at something in the hillside grasses behind this sign. I wasn’t in a good position for that attack but I was when it returned to the sign post it was hunting from.


In flight

This great gray owl was hunting in a field near Grand Valley Road a couple of weeks ago. On one of the glides between perches above the grass, she flew towards me and landed on a ranch gate behind me.


Road warrior

After hunting along a field to the right of the road, this great gray owl flew low across to the other side. I left a few minutes later while she continued to closely watch the grasses while moving between fence post and traffic sign perches.


Great gray owl backlit in the morning

This owl was hunting along a field and flew up to this post close to me after swallowing a vole. The sunlight shone through the extended feathers as she flared her wings to land. The intensity of the great gray owl eyes was on full display as well. A few different elements came together to make an image that I really like.


An owl in the rising sun

I went out onto the Foothills last weekend to catch the sunrise. It was beautiful but this great gray owl stole the honors for the morning to me. I loved having her backlit by the warm sunshine while she flew to hunt in the field.

Amid a number of current challenges, I enjoyed getting out for time to photograph and put energy into this passion of mine.


Great gray owl in the late winter forest

On a solo outing to some remote roads, I found a gorgeous great gray owl perched on a telephone pole in warm afternoon sunshine.

A short wait ended with the bird gliding into the forest.  It found a perch there and moved to two other ones before flying to a knot of trees close by.

She scanned the sky occasionally, watched the ground steadily but did not find a target on or under the snow.  One launch had the owl drop onto a pile of deadfall.  I caught a nice launch off of a tree trunk and followed the bird up to her next perch.

Soon she flew across the nearby meadow and landed in a lone evergreen.  She flew along a frozen creek to a slender tee – a winter’s skeleton – that bowed under her weight.

 

And then she flew west, further afield, and well beyond my shooting range with the gear I have.

ng range.


Great gray owl – winter edition

 

Driving home through Millarville last weekend, I hoped to see a great gray owl along the edge of the forest that skirts the road toward Bragg Creek.  I had my camera beside me and my girlfriend and I kept eyes peeled for them on fenceposts or perched in the trees.

We found one amid a snow storm.  It was not in a stop friendly location so I took a couple of quick shots and continued along.

Happily, another one was waiting a few miles further along.  This one was watching over a field and was kind enough to have chosen a tree that was across from a small pullout.  We had time to point out the owl to the kids and for me to put a long lens on it.  After a few minutes, it launched out over the field and I had some good flight opportunities.

It had been a few months since I had seen a great gray owl so I was thrilled to get to see two that evening.  I’ll have to make sure I retrace my steps there again soon.


Summer with the great grays

It was a great spring to spend lot of time with these majestic owls.  For many years there have been several pairs of great gray owls that I’ve been able to photograph hunting and resting on perches in and around forests near my home.  I’ve never taken it for granted.  Happily the great spring has continued into summer.  Here are a few of my favorites from July so far.

 

 

 


Great gray owl flying into the forest

‘This great gray owl was sheltering in the branch of a leafy tree when I first found him east of Kananaskis.  The rain was pouring and he was smart to avoid the brunt of it.  I was less so and got soaked.  Eventually the sun came out and the forest brightened.  The owl began hunting and grabbed two field mice over a half an hour.  In this image he had alighted from a fencepost and was heading back into the forest.

 


The final hunt after an evening with a great gray

Watching from the branches, the owl dove after the sunlight had slipped away.  It had already been a great day of owls (long-eared, short-eared, snowy and great grays).  There was enough light for one more encounter.

 

The bird missed on the first plunge into the snow.  Then heard or saw something and shot upwards.   He flew away from me and quickly dove back to the ground.

With the second strike successful, he swallowed the prey and then returned to the trees.

Flying to a new perch after several minutes.  From there it alternated between watching the field across the road and the fence line directly below.

The light faded quickly and my fingers were happy when I returned to the vehicle.