Photographing flying Short-eared Owls

It is already some years ago, that I spent Christmas and New Year days at the coast of the Netherlands. Here I had my first sighting of a flying Short-eared Owls (Asio flammeus) in 2008.  It was my second encounter, after one individual of a Short-eared Owl I witnessed sitting in the sandy grass of the coast near Wilhelmshaven in northern Germany. Of course I wanted to photograph this beautiful and rare owl as well.

At my next visit to this area in December 2009 I was lucky enough to see 3 different Short-eared Owls at one spot in action. In the late afternoon this birds start to get active and fly over the polders in this area looking for prey. It is really a fascinating view to see this beautiful birds flying over the fields and then abruptly changing direction to catch their prey, mainly mice, on the ground.

Then in January the next year I went to Zeeland again. I had not made these images I wanted to take of these birds. I hoped that the Short-eared Owls would spend some more time at this place over the polders and sandy dunes for a while. Thus I arranged for another trip to photograph my favorite subject of this area. Sunbeams pushed through the big, thick clouds in the course of the afternoon. The weather stayed great, although it became a little misty in the evening. I had to wait for almost 2 hours until the Short-eared Owls finally showed some action. There were at least 2 owls present and one was sitting for over an hour on a pole and did not move all the time.

In June 2016 I took another attempt to photograph Short-eared Owls, but this time I was in Alaska. Throughout the trip, we had photographed Short-eared Owls already. But the best spot for sure was Safety Lagoon on Nome.

One afternoon, we arrived a little early but had lots of waders to look at. The advantage was that I could use time to examine the area a little bit. Then in the late afternoon the first Short-eared Owl appeared. It came flying really close along the road and gave the group great show. Although the area was pretty big and the owls could circle around, you did not have to wait long until another Short-eared Owl pass along. This time the owls came really close, sometimes full-frame for my Canon 400mm f / 4 DO IS USM on a Canon EOS 1 DX. I had a hard time following the owls with the lens in the hand. I had quite some really nice shots. But it happened that the AF picked the background instead of the owl as well. You should devote time and patience if photographing Short-eared Owls.

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