Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

June 8, 2010

Burrowing Owl on a rock

Filed under: Birds, light — richditch @ 4:28 pm
Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

I haven’t been getting out much recently, but I did manage a couple of hours locally on the weekend.

One of the treats of living in the western U.S. is the opportunity to see and photograph the Burrowing Owl. They are widely distributed from Canada through the plains and deserts down into Mexico. In central Arizona they are found mostly in agricultural areas. The urban sprawl of metro Phoenix before the economy crashed displaced a lot of owls and made them harder for me to find. I did manage to find a few about 25 miles to my south earlier this year. Then recently my friend Brendon alerted me to a pair in the East Valley where we’d been photographing a rare June vagrant Red Phalarope.

Unlike with the previous bird that I worked from my car window, this pair of birds spent most of their time in an area inaccessible to my car. So I had to try to get close outside the car in plain view. This bird didn’t care for my initial approach and flew to another rock on the perimeter of  this empty lake. Then it decided to visit the top of a metal fence post back on my side of the lake where I got a number of shots.

Slowly driving around the edge of this lake I was able to find the owl on a natural dirt mound with vegetation all around, and I took some shots in this location as well. But the light was pretty strong from behind the owl and there may be too much flare in those images.

With the sun already two hours high in the sky I started to leave, having enjoyed my time with the owls but not expecting the best of results. I noticed the owl had returned to the original rock and I decided to give it one more try.

This time the owl wasn’t as spooky and I was able to slide to about 25 feet from the bird. Getting a good angle on the owl was difficult as I had to keep my tripod very low to avoid showing a split dark gray/tan background. The late morning light (7:14 am) is a bit more contrasty than I prefer. But this is the probably the best shot from this session.

I’ll probably head back in a couple days and be more patient with this bird.

Nikon D200, 300/2.8 AF-S plus TC20E (2x), Gitzo 1325 tripod with Really Right Stuff BH-55 ball head, Sidekick. ISO 100, 1/64th second, f/8.

And yes – that’s blood on the owl’s face, and feathers on the foot. So it might have been snacking on dove or quail before I arrived.


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