Photographing Owls
All photos taken with 10x telephoto lens and have been cropped significantly from the original. If you get too close, they will fly!

Finding owls is so much fun. They are big, they are beautiful, and when you do find one it's soooo cool. But you do you find them? This Great Horned Owl in Lexington was being mobbed by songbirds, pretty unusual in itself. More often I find Great Horned Owls when they are being mobbed by crows, who achieve a fever pitch of calling that almost always can be identified as "owl" instead of "hawk."

This youngster was found on the Winchester Country Club grounds and reported to me at Mass Audubon. It was practically across the street, so I asked if I could see it. My major concern was that people would get too interested and stress the owlet and the parents, but when I saw him it was getting late and there was no one around, so I figured his parents would get him squared away before the next morning, and I photographed him and left. 

Sometimes you just plain get lucky. This Barred Owl was perching on a branch overhanging a road in Lincoln, and I caught it out of the corner of my eye as I drove by. It was a one-way road, and involved a very long drive to get back to the place I saw it so that I could take its photograph.

I was specifically looking for owls when I found this guy. It was November, and there wasn't much else to do, so I went to search the pine grove nearby for owls. I carefully combed the grove, looking for whitewash (a nice name for droppings), and found lots of it, but it was probably not owls, since none of it was accompanied by pellets (the fur and bones the owls regurgitate after eating rodents). I came across yet more whitewash, and knelt down to look for pellets (not expecting any), and there were dozens there. I had been fairly cavalier, not taking care avoid flushing anything, so I froze, then very, very slowly looked up to see this Long-eared Owl staring back at me. I snapped the photo, then crawled backwards, verrrrrrrrrrrrry slowly, until he stopped staring at me.

Later I found another one nearby.

Screech-Owls are remarkably faithful to roost holes. Once you discover a Screech-Owl (or have a friend find one and tell you about it), you can come back year after year to check the same hole, and rediscover the owl. This much-visited gray phase Screech-Owl was photographed in Arlington.
I came across this Screech-Owl while watching a fox den in Winchester. I was standing on a hill overlooking the den, and then looked across, and there was a red Screech-Owl, also watching the foxes. After a while it dozed off, and I started moving around to get different angles on the bird, but got caught in the act in frame four.

This young Screech-Owl was raised in a hole without good branches nearby. Normally when the chicks leave the hole they just crawl out on a branch and exercise their wings, but this guy fell out of the tree. He seemed pretty happy in this rhododendron, so we just left him alone. We knew his parents knew where he was and would continue to care for him.

Then there are the hotline birds. I was out one day and called home to check my voice mail, and there were about six messages from Bob Stymeist telling me about this Boreal Owl on a Boston Back Bay street corner.

Sometimes you actually flush an owl. A friend brought a whole new meaning to the word "flushing" when she startled this Northern Saw-Whet Owl out of a pine grove while making a pit stop.