Last week, a photog friend of mine, Carolyn, gave me info about where and when she photographed a Short-eared Owl at the Ridgefield NWR on Jan. 7. I had left the refuge that day, a half hour before the 4:15 p.m. time that she said she spotted the owl. So I went to the refuge this morning (Jan. 15) and had a pretty good day shooting, although it was quite dark and overcast until about noon. It stayed somewhat light until only about 3:00 p.m. At around 4:10 p.m., with dark clouds blocking the sun, I decided to park at the location Carolyn said she saw the owl. I slowly started driving down the refuge road keeping my eyes peeled for this owl. Only a couple of minutes passed and I spotted it land in the grass on the dike! I couldn’t believe it! This bird returned to the same place, at the same time it did a week ago. At first I thought it was a light colored Harrier, but I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t.
It didn’t stay on the ground long and took flight heading hundreds of feet behind me. (My first shot of the bird was taken at exactly 4:15!) So I backed up to try to relocate it. I did and after some flying around the area, and having a short skirmish with a Northern Harrier in the air, it again, landed on the dike. It allowed me to drive up perpendicular to it and I took A LOT of shots, at all sorts of settings from ISO2500 to 10000, and also different shutter speeds. I haven’t had a chance to view all the frames yet but this image showed all of the bird’s body. The high ISO on this image took its toll on the detail quality but I had to post a photo of this fairly rare sighting at the Ridgefield River ‘S’ Unit. My last photo of this owl was in Jan. 2013, in the same area on the refuge. In 9 years of shooting here I have photos from only 3 opportunities.
Canon 5D Mark III, 1/1000, f4, ISO 10,000, 500mm, 4:37 p.m.