Some days you just get lucky. And today was one of those days. I awoke very early to be up on the Stoney River Forest Road in the Superior National Forest by dawn (Lake County in northern Minnesota). Unfortunately the day dawned foggy and I struggled to find photo subjects. Driving slowly through a Black Spruce/Tamarack bog I spotted the delicate pink blossom of a blooming Bog Laurel. As I stepped out of the Subaru I heard a familiar sound—the begging call of a young owl. Sure enough, there were THREE juvenile Northern Hawk Owls calling from three different Tamaracks. I doused myself in bug dope (10% DEET!), put on my rubber boots and trudged into the bog. Long story short, I spent two hours watching, waiting and photographing this family. Mom (dad?) would come in every 20 to 40 minutes or so with a big, fat, juicy vole. She would fly in to one juvenile but instantly the other two would race to her to get their share…Talk about sibling rivalry!
This photo is the result of patience and luck. Most of the time the young birds were high up in the tippy tops of Tamaracks…with a gray sky background. Patience rewarded me with this bird only six feet off the ground. Luck had it that at some point mom/dad must have given a signal for the chicks that danger was near (and it wasn’t me because the adult ignored me). For at least 10 minutes all three youngsters froze…No begging, no looking around, no moving at all. I used this to get within 10 yards. Note that this guy has a precious vole clutched tightly in its talons…probably a gift from mom or dad.
I chose a vertical orientation to include the photogenic perch.
Canon 7D, 400mm f5.6 on tripod with Wimberly Sidekick, f5.6 at 1/250 at ISO 200.