The long-eared owl has proven to be an elusive target for me photographically for many years. I’ve heard them call, or seen them in dim light but not been fortunate enough to get time with them in decent light. That happens in wildlife photography but hope springs eternal! Last week I was looking for great gray owls west of Calgary with two visiting photographers and luck broke our way.
Driving along a quiet back road we found this beautiful bird perched on a fence line in mid-afternoon sunshine. It was cold but the owl seemed comfortable and even a little dozy. The eyes closed a few times broken up by broad sweeps of the fields in front and the bushes behind. We moved off the road and walked a little closer before setting up the long lenses on the various supports. A little while passed and then the long-eared started to twist her head while her eyes fixated at a point in the snow a few meters away from the fence.
This carried on for a few minutes and was accompanied by more sweeps. I was not sure we would see a dive into the snow or if the owl would lose track of the rodent under the snow. It didn’t and we did. In a very quick change from being stationary, she swept into the air and then plunged towards the ground and into the snow.
Most of her body disappeared as the snow was knee-deep. That did not have any impact on her accuracy. She pulled the rodent out of the snow and swallowed it in one gulp.
She repaired to the post, made another flight – this time over the brambles behind – then returned to the fence. We headed off, leaving her to her field, and continued scouting for great grays. We found a couple in beautiful light – I will share those photographs soon.