Burrowing Owl, “No Trespassing,” and in Flight

You may enlarge any image in this blog by clicking on it. Click again for a detailed view.

I’ve completed a first pass of the images that I made in Alaska and will begin posting them tomorrow.

Burrowing Owls are among my favorite subjects and I post images of them fairly often. Almost invariably, my images are of owls at their burrows or on the ground. Only very infrequently do I have the opportunity to capture images of these little owls in other settings.

Two images today that vary from the norm. The first is of an image that I made very recently of a Burrowing Owl perched atop a “no trespassing” sign.

This bird is likely a male, judging from his relatively pale plumage (male Burrowing Owls tend to have somewhat paler plumage than have females). His behavior isn’t especially unusual. During breeding season the males seem to favor isolated perches in the vicinity of their burrows from which they can surveil the surroundings for possible prey or danger. The sign is apparently a favorite perch for this bird: the streaks of “whitewash” on the sign, consisting of owl poop, are evidence that it often perches there.

I smiled when I made this image. The owl, if it could read, would emphatically agree with the sentiments expressed by the sign.

The second image is of a Burrowing Owl in flight. I encountered this bird perching in the middle of a dirt farm road. I stopped my vehicle, got out to photograph it, and the owl took flight almost at the instant that I trained my lens on it. It was my very good fortune to capture it as it took off. The owl flew at a right angle to where I was standing, but it clearly was aware of my presence, because it is looked directly at me as it flew. The brownish background in the image is the farm road beneath and behind the owl.

This image became an instant personal favorite. Burrowing Owls are extremely difficult to capture in flight. They never seem to fly in straight lines but rather, bob up and down in an oscillating pattern as they fly. That makes it very difficult for a camera’s autofocus system to “latch on” to the bird. As a consequence, the vast majority of my attempts to photograph flying Burrowing Owls consists of blurred messes. I rejoiced when I discovered that I’d captured this bird in sharp detail.

The image reveals some important features of this Burrowing Owl — its relatively short but very broad wings and its even shorter but also very broad tail. Burrowing Owls aren’t known for their flying prowess or their airborne speed, but those stubby broad wings and the wide tail do enable these birds maneuver very effectively.

Images made with a Canon R5, Canon EF 400mm f4 DO II lens+Canon EF 1.4x telextender, M setting (auto ISO). First image, ISO 400, f5.6 @ 1/1250, +1 2/3 stops exposure compensation. Second image, ISO 800, f5.6 @ 1/3200, +1 1/3 stops exposure compensation.

2 Replies to “Burrowing Owl, “No Trespassing,” and in Flight”

  1. cintwigg says:

    Burrowing Owl images are a favorite of mine too! And yes, that owl would agree with the words on the sign!

  2. burrdoo says:

    Fabulous flight shot Steve – rejoice indeed!

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