Last Thursday I was doing last minute preparations for the arrival of my good friend, Steve Howes. I heard a bunch of crows calling as I moved around the kitchen. This isn’t a new thing at all but they sounded really close so I went to the front door to see what they were making all the fuss about. As I looked out the little window beside the door I saw one crow sitting on a gutter and could hear several others nearby. I opened the door to see what was going on and a large bird flew off the brick wall on the face of our house. I was startled to say the least. The bird flew across the street and landed in a neighbor’s tree about 10 feet up and clearly visible from the street. I knew by then that it was an owl but I could not tell what kind without some binoculars. I ran for my camera gear and attached my favorite lens to the D800 body that was all charged up and ready to go once Steve arrived. I kept hoping that the bird would stay still long enough to at least get a shot from my porch so I could identify it. I was pleased to find the bird still sitting there when I got back to the porch.
This isn’t an uncommon occurrence for me… take a photo and find the bird looking away or totally out of focus. Happens all the time, really. So I moved off the porch and down to the street. I took a few more shots and moved slowly closer, staying on my side of the street. I got to a point where I was directly across from the bird. The crows were still harassing the owl until I stepped off my sidewalk. The crows flew off and the owl just sat there. It looked up and back more than it looked at me. I very slowly would take a couple of steps toward the bird and then take a few shots when it looked at me. Repeat this several times and I was soon within about 10 feet of the bird. I was really having a good time with the bird but retreated so it would hopefully stay there until Steve arrived and could see it and grab some photos too. Back in my garage I watched the bird. The crows returned and I was afraid it would fly away. I moved in again and tried a different angle to the bird to try to improve the background. I really did not like the neighbor’s house windows and frame as a background so I tried to frame the bird against a small maple tree in the yard. It worked.
I retreated again and the crows returned. I started another approach and saw Steve’s car coming down the road. I motioned him into the driveway and walked over to greet him. He had just driven through very heavy rain and traffic to get to our place and I didn’t let him relax. I greeted him with “Hi, grab your camera and longest lens and follow me” He saw the owl and we both approached for more photos. The owl was not all that interested in us so we were both making squeaky mouse sounds to try to get the owl to look in our direction. After we both knew that the shots were good we moved in closer. I honestly don’t think that our proximity was what made the owl fly off. I think it had just had enough of the photography session.
So now I have a few shots (100’s) of a Barred owl. Gotta love it when a bird like this gives you a gift and openly poses for about 30 minutes. It was a great start to 2 days of visiting bird hotspots to photograph what ever popped up in front of our lenses. I enjoy time with Steve and always learn from him when we travel together. It may be about trains or sometimes birds but I always benefit from our time together. I guess that what long term friendships are built on. Works for me.