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Archive for the ‘Birds of Prey’ Category

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Male Red-winged Blackbird

Spring has arrived in my neck of the woods. There is nothing more wonderful than waking to the song of the male Red-winged Blackbirds upon their return. They always seem to arrive overnight. One day all is quiet and then the next morning the songs of Red-winged Blackbirds fill the air. The above bird was photographed yesterday in Ontario’s Cootes Paradise as it sang from a perch at the edge of a wetland. Earlier in the day an Eastern Screech Owl was discovered basking at the entrance of a tree cavity that was facing the rising sun.

Each of today’s photographs are straight out of the camera, with very little post processing applied – my preferred way to go when photographing wildlife!

Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio)

Eastern Screech Owl – Gray Phase

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Snowy Owl_6905

Snowy Owl in Flight (Nikon D500 & Nikon 200-500mm Lens)

Over the last couple of days we have received several inches of heavy, wet snow around my home, which has coated the trees and turned the area into a lovely, winter wonderland. I was excited to get out and explore the surrounding farmland near my home for scenics as well as snowy owls. Every year several snowy owls over-winter on the farmland around my home. They gather to feast on mice and meadow voles that are scavenging the soy beans and corn that is spilled during harvest. Pictured above is the only image I have been able to create of a snowy owl so far this year. I do like the over-the-shoulder stare that the owl is giving me as it flies out over one of the fields.

Pictured below are a few of the scenic images that were created during my search for the snowy owls.  My choice of lenses for these images was the Nikon 200-500mm lens or the Nikon 28-300mm lens on either my Nikon D500 or Nikon D800 body.

Winter Tree_6947

Winter Tree in Snow Storm (Nikon D500 & Nikon 200-500mm Lens)

 

Winter Farm_9041

Winter Farm Scenic (Nikon D800 & Nikon 28-300mm Lens)

 

Winter Tree_6932

Winter Tree (Nikon D500 & Nikon 200-500mm Lens)

Winter Trees_6980

Winter Trees (Nikon D500 & Nikon 200-500mm Lens)

Winter Trees_6941

Winter Trees (Nikon D500 & Nikon 200-500mm Lens)

 

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Saw Whet Owl_5477

Northern Saw Whet Owl, Ontario

Late on the morning of November 12th I finally located my first Northern Saw Whet Owl. I have tried several times over the years to locate and photograph this tiny species of owl, often coming close but never succeeding. After scouring a small cedar grove for about an hour I paused to rethink where I should look next when I noticed two bright yellow eye staring back at me, not more than 3 feet from where I stood. Alas, I had found a Northern Saw Whet Owl. As the owl was roosting within the thick boughs of the cedar trees it was tricky to get a clear photograph so I decided to frame the owl in such a way that also tells a story about its habitat.

My go-to lenses for these images were the Nikon 200-500mm Lens and the Nikon 28-300mm Lens. The Nikon 200-500mm lens was deployed to capture tight portraits of the owl hidden within the branches of the cedar trees. The Nikon 28-300mm lens was the main lens used as I was able to easily capture full body images with minimal foreground clutter. The minimum one foot focusing distance of the Nikon 28-300mm lens makes it a very versatile and functional lens. Often the Nikon 28-300mm lens is trashed by the “so-called” internet experts, but this lens in the right hands, with the right vision, and proper photographic technique yields quality imagery everytime!

Below are a few additional images of the Northern Saw Whet Owl I photographed yesterday.

Saw Whet Owl_5557

Northern Saw Whet Owl, Ontario

Saw Whet Owl_5812

Northern Saw Whet Owl, Ontario

Saw Whet Owl_5484

Northern Saw Whet Owl, Ontario

Saw Whet Owl_5568

Northern Saw Whet Owl, Ontario

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Snowy Owl in a near blinding blizzard near Thornton, Ontario, Canada.

 

I am pleased to announce that my Snowy Owl image has been awarded an Honourable Mention in the “Animals In Their Environment” category of the 2018 Siena International Photo Awards, which received the highest international participation ever with close to 48.000 images submitted from amateur and professional photographers from 156 countries worldwide.

To view the gallery of amazing and inspiring, winning images please click here.

I am always fond of creating animate landscape imagery. When I discovered this Snowy Owl roosting on the ground, in a field near my home, during a near blinding snow blizzard I immediately chose to create this small in the frame image of the owl within its habitat during the inclement weather.

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Barn Owl in Cave on Cayman Brac

Barn Owl in Cave on Cayman Brac

Before I left for my trip to the Caribbean island of Cayman Brac in the Cayman Islands I was aware of the Barn Owl population on the island. My research had informed me that these owls use the numerous caves found along the island’s bluff as roosting sites. On several nights while I was photographing treefrogs I could hear these owls calling nearby and did witness a couple of late night fly-bys too. My guide on the island had directed me to a couple of caves that would be productive, but the owls were to wary and would fly out when I would try to make my approach. Eventually my guide and I traveled to the eastern end of the island for an owl that was more tolerant of folks inside the cave. After climbing halfway up the bluff we made our way down into a large cavernous cave and sure enough a Barn Owl sat near the top of the cave, which was open to the sky, undisturbed by our presence. I quickly created numerous compositions of this owl, both wide views and tight crops. For the wider views I utilized the pop-up flash on my Nikon D800 to help illuminate the cave walls inside. Each of the images in this post were created with a handheld Nikon 80-400mm VR lens and to better describe how dark it was inside the cave I dialed in an ISO setting of 5000. Having previously tested my Nikon D800 at very high ISOs I did not hesitate to dial this setting in and fire away 🙂

Which of these photographs is your favorite?

Barn Owls are an extremely rare sight here in southern Ontario, so having the opportunity to photograph wild specimens on Cayman Brac was a real treat during this recent trip.

Please click on the images to see the larger, sharper versions.

Barn Owl in Cave

Barn Owl in Cave on Cayman Brac

Barn Owl in Cave on Cayman Brac

Barn Owl in Cave on Cayman Brac

 

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Snowy Owl in a Snow Storm - Thornton, Ontario

Snowy Owl in a Snow Storm – Thornton, Ontario

Today amid snow squalls and strong winds I made another trek over to see the neighborhood snowy. As usual she was plunked down in the middle of a field that was planted with soy beans last summer. Most likely the field mice and meadow voles are foraging beneath the snow for spilled beans from the harvest, which is likely why this owl is so content on staying at this field, with the well stocked buffet.

To create this image I used a tripod mounted Nikon 80-400mm VR lens on a Nikon D800. After framing the scene accordingly I utilized the Live View function of the camera to manually focus on the owl. An ISO of 1250 was dialed in and an aperture of f16 @ 1/1000 second was used for the exposure, due to the high winds and my desire to enough depth of field for the owl and the distant trees, as well as wanting to capture some of the snow flakes in the air.

Hope you enjoy the images. Please do remember to click on the image to see the larger, sharper version.

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Lake Ontario at Colonel Samuel Smith Park

Lake Ontario at Colonel Samuel Smith Park – Toronto

On Friday January 17th I decided to make the drive down to the Toronto region to search for Snowy Owls. This year we are experiencing record numbers of of Snowy Owls in Ontario as they have migrated down from their Arctic home.. My destination for the day was going to be Colonel Samuel Smith Park. Upon my arrival a strong wind was already picking up off the lake, which was sure to make things a little uncomfortable and cold. After much searching I came to realize that I was not going to have any luck at my chosen destination. After a few icy shoreline images I decided to head a little to the east and try my luck at Humber Bay Park – at least it is good for ducks and I can usually find a few co-operative Long-tailed Ducks, which also migrate down to this area from the high Arctic.

Lake Ontario at Colonel Samuel Smith Park

Lake Ontario at Colonel Samuel Smith Park – Toronto

Long-tailed Duck (formerly Old Squaw) at Humber Bay Park - Toronto

Long-tailed Duck (formerly Old Squaw) at Humber Bay Park – Toronto

Alas my day would come to an end and I would make the long trek home so that I could make it on time for a chiropractor appointment in Barrie and then pick-up my daughter when school ended for the day. After picking up my daughter, we began to drive home and wouldn’t you know it, not 5 kilometers from my home there are two Snowy Owls. As fate would have it I drove roughly 200 kilometers in search of Snowy Owls when they were virtually waiting at my doorstep, but had I stayed home I would not have captured my best image, to date, of a Long-tailed Drake.

On Friday evening and today as well, I went out to create some photos of these Snowy Owls and will continue to do so as long as they are wintering here. No more long drives to find them 🙂

Snowy Owl on Hydro Pole - Thornton, Ontario

Snowy Owl on Hydro Pole – Thornton, Ontario

Snowy Owl in Flight - Thornton, Ontario

Snowy Owl in Flight – Thornton, Ontario

Snowy Owl in Flight - Thornton, Ontario

Snowy Owl in Flight – Thornton, Ontario

Snowy Owl in Winter Farm Field - Thornton, Ontario

Snowy Owl in Winter Farm Field – Thornton, Ontario

 

 

 

 

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