Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Hunter

Canon 500mm f/4 L IS lens with 1.4X II TC and EOS 40D - ISO 400 - Spot metering -1/3 stop: 1/2000 sec @ f 5.6 set for histogram check.too-too-too-too-too-too-too" coming from my lips in one to two second intervals and as long as four seconds was my impression of whistled hoots I hoped would attract a Northern Pygmy Owl within range of my voice. The call is territorial in nature and I was hoping that I could call in one of the tiny owls that had been spotted in the Bebo Grove area of Fish Creek Provincial Park lately. I had arrived early in the morning after checking out the area earlier in the week. Northern Pygmy Owls are secretive and tend to perch and roost in thickets where it is safe from predators.I was thinking of calling it quits and heading back to my truck when movement in a tree to my right caused me to pull myself out of my stupor and found I was almost eye level with this tiny owl not much larger than a pop-can. I had my camera mounted on my tripod, so it was as simple as swivelling the camera around and I began firing off photos of the owl in the early morning light. The motor-drive on my camera was irritating him and this caused the tiny owl to fly to a nearby tree about 15 meters from my location.He had landed on a perch about ten meters above the ground that bordered a meadow that is part of the old Willians homestead. I had stopped firing off photos and was observing him through my binoculars. I noticed that he was on the hunt as he swiveled his head around constantly sweeping the meadow looking for prey such as meadow voles that is a favorite food of the Northern Pygmy Owl. I should have been paying closer attention and prepared myself for action as he had become excited. I dropped my binoculars and reached for my camera but he had already launched and was swooping down towards the ground where he drove his talons into a Deer Mouse and as quickly flew back to the tree he had launched from.I realized that I had been holding my breath and exhaled in time to capture images of the tiny owl as he landed on his perch with the deer mouse in his talons. The mouse was still alive, but was quickly dispatched by the owl with a couple of bites to the head. After a time the tiny owl not much bigger that the deer mouse took his leave and flew off to a feeding site in a nearby thicket. I had observed where he had landed but decided he deserved to be left to his meal of prime deer mouseHopefully you don't find the photos to gruesome but everyone including this tiny Pygmy Owl has to eat. Feeling pleased with myself, it was time that I headed in for a coffee and a bite to eat, although maybe at a different restaurant.
Northern Pygmy Owl dispatching a Deer Mouse

Don't forget - all photos expand

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