A few weeks ago I was showing Ellie a tractor that we could just see through the woods. As the tractor came close to the trees a large bird flew off. I figured it was one of the Red-Tailed Hawks that live in the area, and I wanted a closer look so I told Ellie we were going for a walk and grabbed my camera.
As we walked up the driveway we heard a loud racket in the woods and since there were no leaves yet, we could see a couple crows and something else fighting. As we got closer I saw the larger bird flying with the crows in hot pursuit. One of the crows bumped the bird on its back, causing it to land on the ground. Sitting still it was still hard to see because of it’s camouflage in the thick brush. Only when it turned its head to look at me with its large yellow eyes did I realize it was a Great Horned Owl.
The crows were still harassing it so it quickly took off again through the woods. I couldn’t follow it quickly enough with Ellie and Adelaine in tow, so I couldn’t see where it went. I was pretty excited to have seen (and photographed) such a large predator and didn’t expect to see it again.
The following week, Naomi was out for the evening at a bridal shower and I was home with the kids. As I was putting the kids to bed I was pulling down the blinds in the girls room and saw a commotion in the trees. The crows were at it again, harassing their enemy. The girls have never been put to bed so fast before! I was out the door with my camera and flash. It was getting dark and I knew I likely wouldn’t get a good shot. I hopped the fence and started making my way through the woods to where the fight was, trying to keep trees between me and the owl so it wouldn’t see me coming. Just before I was in a good position to get a photo, the owl made a break for it with the crows close behind. It didn’t know I was there as it started flying right towards me. For such a large bird, it was almost completely silent. It flew right in front of me and I fired a few shots from chest height.
Certainly not a great shot.
After the quick flyby, I went back in the house to properly put the girls down for bed (they thrive on routine); then, armed with my camera and a baby monitor (the true sign of a nature photographer!) I was back outside to try to find the owl. It is very hard to be stealthy with the hiss and static of a baby monitor, so not surprisingly the owl was well aware of my location. As soon as I looked in his direction he was off again, leaving me with another blurry photo.
I have gone out in the woods a number of times trying to find him, but they are so well camouflaged I could walk right under him and never see him. I’ll keep trying.