Posts tagged “Great Grey Owl

Great Grey Owl – flights along a forest meadow

(Please click on each image for higher resolution versions)

My friend Jeff came back out to Bragg Creek to photograph with me again last weekend.  We found a female Great Grey Owl hunting over one of the fields in West Bragg.

She was covering large areas of the field with each flight and it was fun trying to anticipate where her flight path would go as she crisscrossed the meadow. 

The intensity of expression of these owls always holds my attention.  That coupled with the power in their flight motion make them so interesting to watch.  This encounter was no exception to that rule.

The talons are amazing too.  I have heard of people being attacked by Great Grays when they strayed too close to a nest – I continue to believe that is something to be avoided.

Great Gray Owl flights and perches in Bragg Creek

I had a great morning earlier this week watching this female Great Gray Owl.  She flew to several perches as she moved from the forest into the open meadows nearby.

She was watching for quite a while at each stop.   She seemed pretty relaxed, without any great urgency to hunt.

Down the field, the sun was reaching into the trees.  The light that got through was really beautiful.

I’m hoping to hang out again over the weekend.  We’ll see if she is thinking the same thing.

On the hunt with a Great Gray Owl

My good friend, the owl, took me for a bit of a run last Monday.  I found it perched on a stake in the middle of a large field in West Bragg Creek and after a few minutes I had walked to within 100 yards.  I stopped at another stake that I thought would provide a better vantage point than the current perch, set up my tripod and waited.  The Great Gray glided to a small evergreen first,  then to a fencepost and eventually to the stake about 10 yards from me.

It stayed there for a couple of minutes before gliding past me and flying low over the grass.  For the next 10 minutes, it lunged a couple of times into the tall grass.  These dives proved unsuccessful and I was surprised when it spent a minute or two standing on the ground before pushing up into the air again.

It covered a lot of ground and I just stayed on a straight line moving northward.  Our paths came close once but I did not get any memorable photographs during this stretch.  I was really enjoying the opportunity to watch how it scouted and attacked.

The field work came to an end when the owl flew into a line of trees and settled on a stray fence post.  I moved up on to the road for a better angle and then the owl moved to a post connected a long line of other posts by barbed wire.  It flew from the first post to the next in line so I moved a few down to set up in case the pattern continued.  It did fly over two more posts but then it got really still on one of the perches and stared intently into a tangle of branches about 15 yards on the other side of the fence.  I didn’t have a great line on the branches but I didn’t want to move and make any noise.  When the owl launched, it was clear that it had a target lined up.  The silence of owls in flight is incredible and I was enthralled watching this attack.  This time, the talons caught a field mouse and the owl paused while it moved the kill to its mouth.

When the bird flew up again I had a great line and was able to take some nice images.  It crossed back over the field and settled on the far side to dine which signaled the end of this encounter.

Evening Owl: A Great Grey in Bragg Creek

Just before the long weekend, I had an evening free to tour the back roads around Bragg Creek.  As the shadows grew longer and the heat of the day softened a little, I hoped to see some wildlife come out of the trees.  A few miles off the main road, I saw a Great Grey Owl perched on a fence post right on the forest’s edge.  It was pretty calm and just stared at me when I stopped my car and walked back towards it.

It flew a couple posts ahead of me and I expected it to not let me get too close.  Then it flew just in front of me, crossing the road, and landing on a post on the other side of the road right in front of me.  I was using a long lens which meant I couldn’t fit the bird in the frame as it landed in front of me.  It is always fantastic to be that close to Great Greys.  I took a couple of steps backward and enjoyed watching as the owl scouted for the field mice and rodents touring through the long grass along the fenceline.

I thought the owl might dive into the grass as it stared down periodically for several minutes.  In the end, it chose to fly off for a higher branch.

Too close to get a clean shot but I like the intention in the owl’s movement and its eyes.

A last stare (disapproving? menacing?) before heading further down the road.

Great Grey Owl in Flight

I spied this owl perched out in the full sun at the edge of a stand of trees ringing a lake in Priddis, about 30 miles west of Calgary.  I set up a couple dozen yards on a hill so that I was at the same height as its perch.

The bird was in no rush and waited for about 20 more minutes before launching out of the tree.  The vole or some similar creature must have dipped out of reach as the owl touched down but flew up again into this bare tree.

I left it staring intently across the field, I’m sure it didn’t miss the next one.

Strix Nebulosa – an evening encounter with a Great Grey Owl

On my drive home last night I spotted a large, oblong shape perched on a tree branch just off a gravel road on the forest’s edge near Bragg Creek.  Going at highway speed and being a couple hundred meters away from the object, I wasn’t sure what it was but I quickly turned around hoping that it was an owl of some type.  When I pulled up the gravel road, I was very happy to see it had not yet flown away.  I grabbed my camera, a telephoto lens and a flash and walked slowly towards the bird.  Even in the failing light, it was easy to identify my new friend as a great grey owl.  I kept the flash off as I approached giving the owl time to get used to my presence and decide if it wanted to model for me.  Great greys are mercurial, one encounter they will fly away as soon as they see you, another time they will stay but keep their eyes away from you.  This was one of the great encounters where it allowed me to come close and was not agitated.  At one point it flew away but then circled around me and came to land on a fence post about ten meters from me.  I photographed this beautiful creature for about fifteen minutes and then left it to continue its wait for the ground creatures to start their nightly forays into the open.

Perched on the top of a tiny branch this is where I first found the owl.  Given the size of these birds (wingspans average 1.4 meters), I’m always surprised when I see a visible demonstration of how light they are (average of 1.2 kilograms).

I thought the owl was leaving here but then it banked to the right and landed on the fence post across the gravel from me.

At this point, it was quite dark and the colors in the scene were restricted to blue hues and gray tones.  I turned the flash on to capture the brown color in the feathers and the yellow in the eyes.  The image I wanted to finish with was of the owl flying where you could see the motion and power in its flight before finishing the shoot.  I used a slightly longer exposure to get movement in the wings and panned with the owl as it launched and flew past me.

It doesn’t always turn out but when I can create the image I’ve imagined in my head it is a good day.  This is pretty close to what I was trying to capture in the photograph.  Thank you to Bobbi for managing the three-ring circus at home for an extra while longer last night to let me play with an owl for a little bit.