Year End Countdown # 11 — Ouch!
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I made tonight’s image back in June. I was driving on a rural road when I saw a Burrowing Owl. I began to photograph it. At first the owl simply stood, watching me. Then, suddenly, it winced visibly, lifted one foot, and shook it violently. I photographed a sequence of the owl’s behavior and at the time I wondered what was going on. It was only later when I viewed the image on my computer screen that I realized what had happened. The owl was reacting to an ant, which evidently had stung the owl on its foot. Look closely at this image and you’ll see the ant, suspended in mid-air, as the owl, eyes closed in pain, shakes it off its foot.
In southern Arizona we have several species of large ant that are known generically as “Harvester Ants.” Members of each species are equipped with stingers, like wasps and bees, and they pack a wallop. A sting from one of these insects causes immediate and intense pain, certainly equal to that of a wasp’s sting and perhaps more painful than that. Obviously, Burrowing Owls are no more immune to these ants than we are.
Image made with a Canon 5Diii, 400 mm DO+1.4x telextender, aperture priority setting, ISO 800, f6.3 @ 1/1600.