07.12.20: Barred Owl

Chances are I’ve walked past owls without seeing them. They usually sleep during the day when I’m out with my camera and their feathers blend well with trees in the forest.

Rare treat for me: Finding an owl 

to photograph

I know there are owls in the woods in most areas where I do wildlife photography. 

I’ve seen stories in the paper about injured owls undergoing rehabilitation in local nature centers. Hikers have told me about owls they’ve watched. And I’ve seen photos by other photographers taken in the same parks I visit.

Chances are I’ve walked past owls without seeing them. They usually sleep during the day when I’m out with my camera and their feathers blend well with trees in the forest.

My closest encounter was with a massive Great Horned Owl that flew from a tree about 10 feet from my head as I exited the woods and walked into a clearing beside a lake. The owl flew across the lake and over a tree line before I could lift my camera.

After hundreds of miles hiking through the woods I have seen six owls and photographed four.

Three I have photographed have been Barred Owls, like the one in this photo. And I almost missed this one.

I was walking through Six Mile Cypress Slough, a wildlife area near Fort Myers, Fla., photographing a variety of herons and egrets while looking for alligators and snakes. As I was moving along the boardwalk, looking down into the swampy surroundings, a person walking the other way stopped, pointed up and said to her friend, “There’s an owl!”

I couldn’t see it from the direction I was walking. But I had a good view when I stood behind the couple, faced the opposite direction and looked up. 

I found the owl in my viewfinder for a closer look through my telephoto lens but, as expected, it was asleep. So I kept the camera in position and waited. After a few minutes it opened its eyes, glanced around, then went back to sleep.

I clicked off a few shots when the owl was looking my direction. Then I continued on my heron/egret/gator/snake trek.

Barred Owls are about 21 inches tall, about the same height as a Red-tailed Hawk. They have no ear tufts (unlike the Great Horned Owl or Eastern Screech-Owl). Barred Owls roost quietly in the forest during the day and hunt at night, eating a variety of small animals (squirrels, chipmunks, mice, snakes, rabbits, birds). Their hooting call— described by bird sites as “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?”— can be heard occasionally during the day but is a common sound in forests at night.

A Barred Owl watches from a tree in Six Mile Cypress Slough, Fort Myers, Fla.

A Barred Owl watches from a tree in Six Mile Cypress Slough, Fort Myers, Fla.

Tech specs

  • Date/time: Feb. 11, 2019, 9:19 a.m.
  • Location: 26°34'27.894" N 81°49'20.052" W (Show in Google Maps)
  • Canon EOS 7D Mark II 
  • Lens: Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm)
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Shutter: 1/1000th second
  • ISO: 3200