I had the privilege of spending time with a very responsible Great Gray Owl today. On a little used dirt road in southeast Itasca County I stumbled on a hunting Great Gray right next to the road. If I was a northern owl in search of suitable habitat that reminded me of my ancestral Canadian home (any assumption that this owl had its genetic roots north of the border is purely speculation on my part), then this would be a bog for me. Monospecific stands of Black Spruce rooted in deep sphagnum moss bordered both sides of the road. We (the owl and I) could have been in northern Canada for all we knew.
I parked well up the road and hoofed it back towards him with camera and tripod and flash. It was a quiet and heavy day; fog and thick mist in the air. As is typical of northern owls, the Great Gray hardly acknowledged me. I started shooting. He ignored me; Eyes wide open searching the moss with his ears. After a few false alarms he settled back and seemed to relax. His eyes drooped more and more until they shut. Instantly his eyes snapped open and he seemed to pull himself erect…It was a perfect imitation of a sleepy man in church during a long boring sermon. I could read his mind, “I’ve got three hungry mouths to feed back at the nest…I have to stay awake and capture dinner…No relaxing…The little lady will be upset….Why else would I be hunting at midday?” This scenario repeated itself several times before he flew back into the bog. Unable to fly, I fairly skipped back to the truck with dozens of fun photos of a responsible owl father, a rarely seen denizen of the North.
Canon XTi, Canon 400mm lens with 1.4x teleconverter, tripod, f6.3 at 1/250, ISO 400