Sunday, November 13, 2011
Woo Hoo!! Snowy Owl!
The word was out that a snowy owl had been frequenting the area since early November. I set out for a long stroll with my fingers crossed. Within my first half mile, I met a jogger who told me that an owl was just around the corner. “Can’t miss it,” she said. I have heard that line before…
I quickened my pace. I kept telling myself not to get too excited. Birds often fly away before you get a chance to spot them. I could only hope that the owl would still be there when I arrived.
My anticipation was growing. I was eager to see the owl. I was like a kid at Christmas waiting to see what was under the tree.
Finally, I arrived and surprise, no bird. Disappointed, I decided to walk further on. After a quarter mile I spotted two photographers with giant lenses. I was getting excited again. They had to be photographing the owl, but I couldn’t see it.
After a few hundred more yards I spotted what looked like a large white volley ball near the photographers. It had to be the owl. It was in some dune grasses and it seemed to be resting. Immediately, I went very close to the shore to give the owl as much space as possible. I had to pass the owl to get on the right side of the light. The last thing that I wanted to do was spook the owl and spoil the opportunity for the other photographers.
I walked approximately 75 yards past the owl and approached the photographers while staying low to the ground. Setting up about ten feet behind the photographers, I made my first images about 50 yards from the owl. At this distance, even my 500mm lens was not long enough to make a great image of the very large bird. I quickly added my 1.4 teleconverter to gain 40% more focal length, effectively making my lens a 700mm lens. The teleconverter helped magnify the owl tremendously. One of the photographers waved me up to join them. The extra ten feet helped as well.
For the next hour, I sat with two very experienced bird photographers. We intently watched the snowy owl. It barely moved. We were very excited when a crow buzzed by and caused the owl to go into a defensive crouch. Then the owl walked a few paces before settling down for another nap. Eventually the owl perked up and flew away. The three of us were thrilled to spend some time with such a magnificent bird.
This month’s tip: Persistence pays off. Eventually, being in the right place will result in being there at the right time.