Friday, January 22, 2010

So worth the drive!

I had the great opportunity to take a few hours today and head down to see the Snowy Owl which has been hanging around the town of Peyton, Colorado. The owl has been the talk of the COBirds listserve, and has attracted the attention of the local media as well. Birders far more experienced and knowledgeable than I have debated the reasons for periodic Snowy Owl irruptions, and the prognosis for individuals that have wandered so far from their normal range.

I was just happy to find that this fellow, (consensus of the experts seems to fall on a 2nd year male), seemed to be doing fairly well to my novice eyes, and was content to remain until I had a chance to make the trip. The most fun thing I noticed about this bird were the feathered feet. The bird's feet and attitude reminded me of the Sesame Street monsters I watched as a kid. I guess the big eyes and soft texture led to that comparison. I enjoyed the sight for about 25 minutes while the bird treated us to a few steps as it walked up to the apex of the roof. It alternated its attention between the group and a pair of joggers that passed at one point, the birds and dogs in the neighborhood, traffic on the highway, and once it comically looked up and backwards to watch a low flying plane fly overhead.

The Snowy Owl was perched on a rooftop just off the road, and when I arrived there were already several cars and a handful of birders watching from the far side of the road with scopes and bins. I got a couple of shots and realized that this was an ideal situation to attach my rarely used 2X extension tube to my telephoto lens. Extension tubes cancel the Image Stabilization that allows me to hand hold my camera while hiking and get passable shots. To get extension shots requires a setting that facilitates a tripod or stationary base. Today I used a monopod mount with the extension tube and my lens fully extended to its 400mm. It actually helped when shooting a white bird in harsh light because the extension tube will darken images to some extent. Unfortunately the tube had a couple of dust specks, which led to a bit of post production cleaning on some of the backgrounds.

I was really just happy to get some shots that weren't completely washed out. The timing being what it had to be for me to see the bird I was happy with witness quality shots, but these were a step above. Not perfect by any means, but certainly ones that I will enjoy as a memento of this cool sighting.

Finally it left its perch to move to a different rooftop, treating me to the series of flight shots as it went.

Update (1/27/2010): I found a good site Views Infinitum - Finding the Spirit hosted by Scott Thomas. It is featuring 6 assignments this year, the first of which is WHITE. Consider getting out there and shooting something white, due date is Feb. 3.

2010 Count: 38
Lifetime: 203


  1. Excellent shots, especially the fourth one! What a wonderful thing to see and photograph!

  2. Thanks for the linkback, Dave! Very cool sighting and photographs of a northern visitor.

  3. What a beautiful bird. Seeing images like this makes me wish for a longer tele. Your exposures are perfect on this difficult object.
    Very fine.

  4. Oh, how absolutely fabulous!!! :) They are such a stunning sight, aren't they? I was lucky enough to happen upon one many years ago driving down a dirt road late one night. It swooped down and through the headlight's beam...startled me half to death, until I realized what I was looking at! An amazing experience. I'm not sure if it's unusual for the Snowy Owl to be out at night or not? Rumor around here has it that there is another in that same general vicinity, but I have yet to see it.