I have a lot of bird pictures I really like, but to be quite honest, the next couple are definitely in my group of favorites. It is not so much the quality, lighting, pose etc. as much as it is the amount of things that fell into place in order to actually be able to take this shot. First off, Linda and I were heading out one morning to check out the Peoria Zoo and thus had both our good cameras with us. It was a fairly nice sunny day so we dropped the top on the convertible which allowed me to take in the scenery as we were passing our favorite park just down the street from us. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed that a large object was sitting in the branches of a dead tree (in a yard across the road from the park). I had Linda slow down allowing me to make out that it was this sitting in the tree:
The best I can tell, it is a Barred Owl which according to my guide can be active into midmorning. We always hear these birds hooting at night, but rarely have we seen one out in the morning sun. Unfortunately, I had to crop it a little tight to block out some unappealing background. I prefer to give my birds some room to move in the frame, but technically he is facing backwards to me so he does have room to escape out the left side. Although this was a pretty close encounter, Linda and I have had two other experiences. One was at our old house while walking along a trail in the woods. We startled a huge owl that literally dive bombed us before getting enough uplift under the slowly unfurling wings enabling it to lift into the sky. That one made our hearts skip a beat, but the other one just about killed us. We were heading home late one night in my wife’s Wrangler. As we came down a hill, there was a large object in the road. Although there are conflicting reports on what actually occurred next, the consensus is my description is the accurate one. For some reason my wife either did not see the LARGE OWL in the middle of the road or had some owl angst from a childhood experience and thus decided not to hit the brakes (she claims she was preventing a rollover due to the top heavy Wrangler). The owl unfurled its wings and began the slow process of lifting into the air. Let’s stress the word slow in relationship to the speed we were traveling. The next thing I see is a full window of owl feathers making an ugly smack sound. Since the Wrangler has a flat windshield, my guess is that owl is toast. For my own since of tranquility, I chose not to look back and just assumed the plumage cushioned the blow allowing it to survive the horrific event. I keep reminding her of this night every chance I get and threatened to paint a silhouette of an owl on her vehicles next to the hundreds of other wildlife she has run down in their prime.
Oh, the other lucky factor is the owl gave me just enough time to get one still shot before he assessed the situation and headed off. I did get one pretty cool flight shot but lost him in the zoom lens as he turned into the woods.
Again, so many things had to come together to get these two pictures. If I get a chance I might post another one of my favorite bird shots I submitted to the State Fair photography exhibit. I am a little hesitant to post our best pictures on the web yet, but I am looking into some watermarking or labeling to give me a little more piece of mind. I enjoying sharing, but I have been getting some stories from my fellow photographers that are concerning me.
Hoping to have more owls to share in the future!