Good to See the Owls

Keeping watch in a spearmint field near Othello

Burrowing owls are hard to find these days, but HM always manages to find one or two nests on his travels. These guys are a real treat to photograph.

You're taking pictures of ME?

All of these photos were taken with an aging Nikon D70 (hard to believe, but it’s eight years old now) using lenses that are fifteen or more years old. The D70 is a great camera, but we usually wind up with a lot of color noise no matter what we do to compensate. Sometimes I get so annoyed I just switch everything to grayscale.

Can you see me now?

But my teeth-grinding aside, I have to say that any camera that can withstand the rigors of being used week in and week out at a community newspaper for that length of time deserves respect.  Most of the other photos on my blog are taken with a Nikon D40, and I have a lot of respect for those little guys as well. The difference in color clarity between the D70 and the D40s is astounding. I’d love to get my hands on a D300 someday.

Actually pretty much any high-end digital camera is amazing these days. I have to feel sorry for professional photographers…just like journalists, they’re a dying breed these days.

As someone who’s taken thousands of pictures for my job, I have to say that “quality” photos that have been Photoshopped and staged to death are not my favorites…for all the feeling they elicit from the observer, you may as well be looking at photos of Barbie dolls. Candid shots like these are really, really hard to get. (Annie used to work for us, and she’s amazing.)

And as you can see, HM is good at candid owl shots. Stealth is an underrated weapon in a photographer’s arsenal, particularly if you’re sneaking up on wildlife.

There was a biologist at the Sandhill Crane Festival in Othello a couple of years ago who gave a talk about burrowing owls. He said a lot of people think these owls are lazy because they tend to loaf around the nest during the day. They’re extremely active at night, though, especially the parents–who come back to the nest every ten or fifteen minutes with a mouse or dragonfly for their babies to snack on.

We used to have a few nests in Royal City, but I haven’t seen owls in town for a long time. The biologist who was lecturing at the crane festival said that they’ve even started making burrows for them (using pipe and five-gallon buckets)  in an effort to boost the dwindling numbers of owls.

If you haven’t seen any in a while, you might want to check out the burrowing owl cam here.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Good to See the Owls

  1. We supposedly have some of these in the preserve near where we live, but we’ve never actually seen them. However, one day last year we were on a walk here — in Stapleton, the NeoUrban capital of Denver — and out of nowhere, wham, there’s a really big owl on the corner of a roof, and it takes off like one of those military helicopters. Probably nine in the morning, full sun. Have never seen it again.

  2. Okay so yea those owl pictures are absolutely awesome. I don’t know if Mike told you but for our anniversary the first year we were here he got me a Nikon D60 which also takes amazing pictures. I actually got my first paying photography “thing” I am going too do this family who has 5 children and cannot afford a big expensive photo shoot, and I told him and his mom the same thing that I really love taking pictures outdoors and I do not like the pictures to be overly posed. Some of the most amazing pictures of my girls are not them being posed but them just being kids and being happy lol.

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